It was like an homage to the late concert promoter/producer Bill Graham that Live Nation, (the company who took over Bill Graham Presents after Bill’s untimely death in 1991) would pull together five of the biggest and most successful bands ever to come out of the Bay Area to produce “San Francisco Fest 2016 On The Green” at AT&T Park, the home of the San Francisco Giants. The lineup of SANTANA, JOURNEY, STEVE MILLER BAND, DOOBIE BROTHERS, & TOWER OF POWER represents the backbone of the “San Francisco Sound” of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, 90’s and they are all still going strong today. Between these four music giants, Journey, Santana, Steve Miller Band, and the Doobie Brothers these bands have performed at twelve “Day On The Green” concerts from 1975 through 1983. This concert sold out in three minutes. Seriously!
Bill Graham got the idea of doing large stadium shows after taking Santana to Woodstock in 1969 and seeing the huge messy success that it was. He came back to San Francisco and built up his Fillmore Auditorium concerts along with producing his first large scale benefit concert called the “SF Snack Benefit” at Kezar Stadium with the Doobie Brothers, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Starship, Neil Young and Bob Dylan. “SF Snack” was organized to replace funds for after school programs. Soon after came Bill’s “Day on the Green” concerts at the Oakland Stadium where he brought in the major super stars of the day. Led Zeppelin, the Who, Fleetwood Mac, Rolling Stones, Santana, the Police, Bruce Springsteen, and Metallica to name a few.
Fast forward to September 4 and it’s “San Francisco Fest 2016!” I took Cal Train to the City early that day because I wanted to see it all! Tower of Power kicked things off exactly at 3:00 pm under a warm sun shined filled afternoon, a beautiful day in San Francisco. Bill Graham was famous for his steadfast concert detailing and he would have been proud of the precision production that was happening that day.
Bringing over some of their Oakland soul to start the party, TOWER OF POWER opened the concert with “Only So Much Oil in the Ground.” Glad to see Emilio Castillo (Tenor Sax) and Steven “Doc” Kupka, (Baritone sax) still being the heart of the band after almost fifty years together. Marcus Scott is the lead vocalist of Tower of Power these days and the young man is hot! He Joined TOP in April of this year and has been rightfully compared with Marvin Gaye, James Brown, Sam Cooke, and Otis Redding. TOP dedicated their song “You’re Still a Young Man” to Journey’s Neal Schon who was at the gate to greet the band as they arrived at the stadium earlier that day. Loved that.
Talk about a precision concert production! It’s 4:00 p.m. sharp! “Jesus is Just Alright With Me” is the Doobie’s opener and the entire place is standing and singing along. Must say, my D Brothers are looking and sounding great! Tommy Johnston and Patrick Simmons have kept the Doobie Brothers sparked up since the very beginning and John McFee has been with the band since 1979. The crowd loved the Doobs and were dancing- old school like “Twisting” throughout their set. An elderly popcorn vendor stopped in our section to show us his dance moves on “China Grove.” So damn cool! At this point of the concert AT&T Park was packed and you could tell that all of the bands were really going to bring it to the crowd with set lists chuck full of hits!
STEVE MILLER BAND
Steve Miller’s whole band came out on the stage wearing black. Black jeans, black vests, black jackets, black shoes. Steve Miller wore a black silk suit probably from Italy or some fancy designer’s country somewhere. His “gangster” look I suppose. He has white hair these days but he looked great at age 72. The new 52? Steve started his set off with two pretty obscure songs but the rest of the set was nothing but hits! Between songs he talked about nice memories about being in San Francisco in 1966 and playing the Fillmore 120 times and when he played for Bill Graham at his “Day on the Green” Concerts. The place was rocking at this point and I’ve never seen so many people dancing at the same time. From the people in front of the stage to the top rows of the ballpark everyone was up and dancing and everybody knew all the words to every song!
Carlos has a fresh new lineup for his band today and they blew the socks off the history making, sell-out crowd at AT&T Park! Carlos’ wife Cindy Blackman Santa now sits center stage behind the drum kit and WOW is she a great drummer! Two new singers have been added- Andy Vargas and Ray Greene and the rhythm section led by veteran timbale player Karl Perazzo has been joined by Paoli Mejias and Tommy Anthony adds his guitar and vocals to the band. Rounding out the group is David K. Matthews on keyboards and Benny Rietveld on bass.
Santana’s set took right off with a continuous flow of high-energy instrumentals at first. It cracked me up to see all the thousands of cell phone lights in the audience trying to capture this legendary guitarist and his incredible band. There was a wonderful video from Africa that played on the large screen behind the stage of people dancing as the band breaks into “Jingo” and then “Evil Ways.”
Carlos’ brother, Jorge Santana came out with his guitar to play a newly rearranged version of his song “Suavecito” which became a top twenty hit when Jorge played in Malo back in 1972. It was great to see the brothers wailing on stage together along with the Santana band and they should seriously consider re-recording this song for a future release.
There was a Santana “Woodstock” flashback when the band started playing “Soul Sacrifice” and each member of the rhythm section got a turn on an extended solo. Carlos has so many huge songs in his catalog that he could fill up several “Greatest Hits” CD’s and he played to please the crowd during his fantastic two hour set. Muy bueno!
Closing out perhaps the best Bay Area Music concert ever was Journey. Lead guitar player Neal Schon first picked up a guitar when he was ten years old and he joined Santana when he was just 15. He certainly was inspired by Carlos and his other guitar heroes are Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and B.B. King. Midway through the Journey set, Neal broke into the National Anthem for an incredible progressive rock rendition of a song that’s getting a lot of attention right now thanks to a certain Forty Niners football player. It was great to see the crowd all stand up and take off their hats for this.
BAMmagazine.com reached out to Neal Schon to get a comment about this amazing concert and he wrote back:
“The original idea was to intermingle Journey with original Santana but timing was off and we were all on our own tours but hopefully in the near future that will happen. I had a blast reuniting with Carlos, Gregg and all in the making of Santana 4. This is all in the spirit we all grew up around and think by the turnout that my hunches were right on about a younger and older generations wanting to experience this again. This was my idea Kenny. I call it “An Afternoon & Night on the Green” Wanted to do this for a long time in honor of Bill Graham. Very happy it turned out so amazing! Looking forward to bringing more of these type of shows all over and definitely back to our beloved Bay Area.
Journey ended the night-right on time with “Wheel in the Sky,” “Don’t Stop Believing,” and for their encore they did “Lovin’, Touching’, Squeezing.” It definitely was a long day of great music at AT&T Park and it’s one concert that will not be soon forgotten.
Special thanks to Aaron Siuda at Live Nation and Rory Davis with Giants Enterprises. All photos courtesy Giants Enterprises.