Some legends are more eagerly awaited than others. Bob Dylan‘s Jones Beach gig was far from sold out, and that electric oh-my-God-we’re-about-to-see-him vibe that occurs, say, when Johnny Cash plays Manhattan, was only sparsely in evidence. Still, multiple generations of fans made for a charming tableau.
Balding regional-manager types sat next to grungettes – most of them in shorts, shaking and huddling, assaulted by the plunging temperature. Near the end of Dylan’s set, people were fleeing in droves, teeth chattering all the way. Too bad, because Dylan was in fine shape, energetic and cheerful – grinning broadly between turns on harmonica and those trademark scorch-and-burn vocals, veering toward the harder, plugged-in end of his incredible library of classics.
“All Along the Watchtower” metamorphosed into a high-decibel jam. “Highway 61 Revisited” was revved up to metal velocity. “Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again” came off as percolating, almost countryish honky-tonk. A wisp of Irish jig floated through “Tangled Up in Blue.”
Even though Santana has gone on to pop success with lighter, jazzier fare, the band’s most compelling sound remains its original one, circa 1969 – the ominous jungle-drum beat that shifts to amphetamine overdrive, suggesting uprising, ritual sacrifice, a secret, seductive universe in itself. That’s what the audience wanted, and Santana delivered with “Black Magic Woman,” “Oye Como Va” and “Jingo,” replete with an encore firestorm of percussion from three drummers (although this also resulted in, horror of horrors, multiple drum solos).
Santana’s more recent material had its moments, too. The mournful dreamscape of “Somewhere in Heaven,” dedicated to the late Arthur Ashe, detoured into rollercoasting funk jazz with an unexpected Middle Eastern melodic flourish. Carlos Santana remains a dazzling, multifaceted guitarist, shifting easily from frenzied guitar-god flash to a graceful flamenco beat. But the entire ensemble’s prodigious chops gave the music a whirling, wild-eyed life of its own, even in the face of vocalist Alex Ligertwood’s occasionally lounge-act delivery.
Santana was enthusiastically received – but, of course, that was before the audience had frozen to death.
This story is from the October 28th, 1993 issue of Rolling Stone.