Santana is currently playing at the House of Blues in Las Vegas (photo: Todd Kaplan)
USA - When lighting Carlos Santana you’ve got to be on your toes. “It all changes on a dime,” says Santana lighting designer Michael Ledesma of the 75-year-old guitarist. “A set list comes out before a show but it’s just a suggestion. We don’t know where he’s going at any given moment. A song starts but then he takes off into other songs within a song and the band follows and we do too.”
Santana is known for his on-stage spontaneity. “That’s what he loves and we’re just enhancing the whole feeling with light and colour,” comments Ledesma, who’s been lighting the guitarist for nearly a decade. “He doesn’t need to have a lot of effects going on so we look to emphasize the solos and represent the feeling of the music with light. We’re not trying to overpower the music but support it visually.”
Following a spring run of shows, Santana toured the U.S. 17 June - 27 August on his Miraculous Supernatural Tour with opening act Earth, Wind and Fire. Key in Ledesma’s design were Elation Protron Eclypse hybrid LED luminaires and SEVEN Batten 14 LED strip lights, working with a full moving head rig and backdrop LED screen. Both luminaires gave the designer plenty of possibilities to complement the artist’s trademark guitar riffs through his signature use of vivid colour.
The Miraculous Supernatural Tour set was a compact system, about 60ft wide with the sides tilted in about 30 degrees. Multi-faceted to take on a number of roles in a rig, the Protron Eclypse’s 27,000+ total lumen output made it an effective wash luminaire on the show, according to Ledesma. “I got the first batch of Protron Eclypse back in 2019 and they have been dependable workhorse fixtures ever since,” he said. “On this show, I could take out the other lights and get a great even wash across the whole stage.”
The designer placed 10 Eclypse fixtures on the downstage, spread across a four-spoke curved truss to form a semi-circle, with 14 units upstage positioned just below three horizontal strips of LED panels. The downstage units colour-washed the audience with spirited chases when called for while the upstage units washed the band and provided chase and strobe effects.
Leaning on his years of lighting design experience, Ledesma says he used several ploys to give the impression there were more lights in the rig than there actually were. “I’d light one half of the Protron’s 96 cells for one look then the other half for another look,” he explains, “or rotate back and forth or top and bottom.” Furthermore, he says that with the downstage units mounted vertically and the upstage units mounted horizontally, the impression was of two different fixtures altogether.
Mounted beneath the backdrop LED screen was a row of 12 SEVEN Batten 14 LED strip lights that the designer used for a variety of colour looks, chases, pixelmapped effects and low backlight onto the band. On the floor downstage were more SEVEN Battens washing the set, instruments and musicians up to chin level.
Santana still loves to tour but when he’s not on the road he’s playing his House of Blues residency in Las Vegas where he also performs beneath a Michael Ledesma-designed rig using Protron Eclypse and SEVEN Batten units. As with the House of Blues shows, Innovative Concert Lighting served as lighting vendor on the Miraculous Supernatural Tour. Santana is currently playing at the House of Blues in Las Vegas until mid-November.

Latest Issue. . .