Carlos Santana, a Bay Area native, was on hand in Oakland to perform an instrumental rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” prior to the Golden State Warriors’ Game 2 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. Alongside his drummer and wife Cindy Blackman, the legendary guitarist delivered a rousing version of the national anthem.
Any guitarist who tackles “The Star-Spangled Banner” draws comparisons to the masterful rendition that Jimi Hendrix unleashed on Woodstock, but Santana made the national anthem his own by combining elements of Hendrix’s performance with his own trademark guitar sound. Adding an unexpected assist to the fiery rendition was the Oracle Arena’s subtle in-house pyrotechnics, which expelled flames and small fireworks when Santana’s guitar skyscraped on the lyric, “And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air.”
Santana and Blackman were making their second NBA Finals appearance as the husband-and-wife duo were asked to perform the anthem at Game 2 of the 2015 Finals, which also pitted the Warriors against the Cavaliers. However, unlike a year ago, the Warriors came out on top in the second game of the series.
Santana isn’t the first rocker to perform the national anthem at a high-profile basketball game this season: At Kobe Bryant’s last home game as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, longtime fan Flea was recruited to perform a bass-only “Star-Spangled Banner.” The results were divisive, with many complaining about the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ rendition. When asked about the controversy, Flea responded, “I don’t care, man.”
“I know that people who like music liked it,” the bassist added. “I thought it was beautiful. I really don’t have any concern for little small minds that get frustrated when they get blown. I like the big minds.”