Santana, Macy Gray Kick Off North American Tour

Carlos Santana kicked off his North American tour and celebrated his 53rd birthday in an upbeat fashion on Thursday night with a sold-out performance at the Mars Music Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Opener Macy Gray sang "Happy Birthday" to the legendary guitarist in the middle of her set as he watched from the side of the stage, while the capacity crowd got a chance to do the same during an impromptu onstage birthday party toward the concert's close.

Hits from the monster album "Supernatural" were plentiful, and the crowd danced to the R&B-flavored "Maria Maria" and grooved to the bluesy "Put Your Lights On." Santana's vocalists, Andy Vargas and Tony Lindsay, carried each song flawlessly, adding their own flavor to the songs Santana had recorded with other superstars.

Naturally, it was Santana-the-guitarist providing the electricity for the evening. During other "Supernatural" songs like "Africa Bamba" and "Migra," Santana soloed, soloed, and

soloed some more. His seven-piece backing band laid down the rhythm and kept the songs rolling in long jams so that Santana could conjure up intricate and mesmerizing solos.

After rolling out more songs from the "Supernatural" LP, the Grammy Award-winner reached back in time to two of his biggest hits from 1970's "Abraxas." The opening riff of "Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen" brought anyone sitting down straight to their feet, where they remained as the band flowed into "Oye Como Va."

Instead of taking a break before the encore, a birthday cake was brought onstage, candles aflame, as the capacity crowd serenaded Santana with "Happy Birthday." Before going into the mega-hit "Smooth," Santana blew the candles out quickly, with a large grin on his face.

Opener Macy Gray enchanted the early crowd; with a band as large as Santana's and three backup singers, Gray, dressed in a vibrant silver suit and red boa, seemed as much a rock star as anyone else taking the stage that

night.

Though they didn't pair up for the opening-night show, Santana promised that he and Gray would rehearse in the coming days so they could perform together later in the tour. "Maybe some Marvin Gaye tunes or something," he suggested toward the end of the set.