SIOUX CITY -- It came from the mouth of Carlos Santana: "This is perfect."

And, Saturday, the 20th edition of Saturday in the Park was.

Offering something old, something new, something iconic, the headliners had the perfect mix for what must have been a record crowd.

While both Carlos Santana and Steve Winwood played plenty of their old hits, Michael Franti proved he's got songs that are worth years of airplay, too.

Digging back to his earliest days, Winwood offered up more than an hour of greatest hits and current singles. He had a tendency to turn most of them into extended-play instrumentals. But they all had that raspy voice and eclectic sound that fans have come to love through decades of transitions.

"Can't Find My Way Home" and "Dirty City" announced immediately that Winwood still has the chops -- even though he looked like a businessman who was moonlighting. Dressed in a long-sleeved shirt and dark pants, he kept the chatter to a minimum, the music to the max.

Michael Franti, meanwhile, rocked the soccer fan look (even kicking around a ball at one point) and did just about everything but hug every person in the audience.

The newcomer seemed tailor-made for SITP.

Wandering into the audience midway through, Franti provided the kind of one-on-one attention you don't often get in an arena setting.

Extolling the virtues of peace, friendship and harmony, the reggae-infused Franti told the crowd he had an emergency appendectomy last August and wondered if he'd see the sunshine while he was recuperating. The experience prompted him to write a song about sunshine. Sure enough, the minute he started singing it, the sun came out and bathed the already-sweating crowd in intense light. It was a pretty cool trick.

While Franti cut a swath through much of his current album, he also sampled "Billie Jean" (trying a bit of moonwalking along the way), partnered with opener Amanda Shaw and got the crowd so wound up with "Shake It, Shake It, Shake It," it wasn't difficult to see why he was slotted in the crucial 5 p.m. time period.

Winwood, meanwhile, gave new twists to old songs like "Higher Love." Moving to a Caribbean beat, the '80s anthem had new energy, a Franti-c force.

He slowed things down with "Dear Mr. Fantasy," an old Traffic song, and got the Billboard juices going with "Gimme Some Lovin'."

While rain threatened to cool off the crowd, it couldn't stop the good vibrations that came from great music done well.

Then Santana hit the stage and had such iconic melodies it was like turning the clock back 10, 20, 30 years. He provided a hefty dose of his Spanish songs, got a great buzz off "Maria, Maria" and offered supernatural guitar licks that are as rare as Haley's Comet.

With a huge screen behind him (a great plus, considering the crowd's size), Santana and his ever-expanding band capitalized on the good will that came before them.

If Saturday's offering wasn't the perfect mix of performers (OK, an old blues guy would have been nice), we don't know what could have made the 20th any more memorable.

Easily, the 20th edition of this Sioux City tradition will go down in the books as SITP's best.

Take it from me ... and Carlos.


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