Carlos Santana was three well-received songs into his set in front of an exhilarated, sold-out crowd when he paused for a moment. Darkness had finally stretched its inky fingers over us, previously kept at bay by the flashing spectacle of stage lights and giant HD screens. His band was a clean, well-oiled machine that knew how to give a crowd everything they came for. All systems were Go for a memorable performance…
Santana suddenly peered into the spotlight as if it were some celestial deity that had just bestowed an incredible truth upon him. He smiled slightly and cocked his head. He looked to his left and called out the next tune. He swung back to his right and shared a knowing look with his wife, Cindy Blackman Santana. He took three steps with his guitar lifted high above his head and brought it all down on a downbeat so devastating that I can still feel it.
It seemed like Carlos Santana had a tiny little epiphany. I mean, the performance was probably already considered flawless by many of us, but the “supernatural” force that sustained for the rest of this concert was rendered by a virtuoso artist with such intensity that it seemed to stun, elevate, and entertain all at once.
I’d seen Santana in concert before. This time, I saw his true greatness.
I felt a similar sort of uplifted vibe permeating throughout aisles of wares lining the halls of the 2022 Summer NAMM show in Anaheim last month as well. This would be despite a greatly reduced presence by many longtime anchor stores like Shure, Presonus, Fender, Marshall, Roland, and Gibson, which declined to attend. At first, I felt a little disappointed. After all, it’s the same cost and hassle to attend a NAMM show with or without those big names that drive the market and technologies. But as I made my way up and down the aisles, I could feel exhibitors and attendees alike raising their game in their interactions. More time was being taken with attendees, who were in turn much more engaged with the products and exhibitors. As a result, it may well have been one of the more successful shows in years!
Microphone manufacturer MXL was there with several additions and upgrades to their line of live and studio microphones. The CR77 stood out immediately, as I own a R77 ribbon mic with a capsule like the one the CR77 is based on. Despite the studio look and lineage, he CR77 is a dynamic mic designed for live vocals, as well as drums and amplifiers. Its distinctive jet black finish gives it a look of cool authority.
On the software side, Eventide celebrates 50 years of studio innovation by introducing yet another innovative new product: SplitEQ. Most sounds have two basic components: transients in the attack portion and the tones that are sustained. SplitEQ allows users to treat these elements separately. A tom hit has transients when the stick strikes and a tonal sustain as the drum shell decays. Usually they are affected simultaneously, but this plugin allows this information to be more “surgically” treated, with less degradation of the original signal. Lots of possibilities.
KILOHEARTS is a solid provider of simply designed, great-sounding effects. With Version 2, they’ve redesigned their modulation system and added several new modulators, along with new presets and workflow improvements. In addition to their own Snapin Plugin hosting, the Kilohearts Essentials Collection contains 30 useful plugins to get you started and is available absolutely FREE at their website!
Fluid Chords from 2022 MIDI Innovation award-winner Pitch Innovations seems like a plugin effect with a lot of potential, with the ability to “bend from any chord to any chord,” even bending to a chord from a single note. Get your inner pedal steel on!
BLACK-BT showed quite a clever twist on an old standby, combining a sustain and an expression pedal into the same unit, with Bluetooth connectivity and a proprietary switching mode that makes it all possible.
There you have it: two recent musically related experiences that rose to a higher level than expected. I’m glad I was there!
Sven-Erik Seaholm is a producer, singer, and songwriter with two new albums coming soon.