Winter Moods (2010 concert review)

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Winter Moods - The Granaries, Floriana, Malta 30/07/2010 {Dean Muscat, printed in The Times of Malta, 04/08/2010 p. 25}

The Granaries in Floriana provide a fitting setting for this special night in Maltese music. The crowd shuffles in whilst new local band Cruz hit the stage. Cruz earned their place as opening act after winning a competition set by Winter Moods themselves in collaboration with radio station 89.7 Bay. The band’s blend of post-grunge and funk-rock warms the crowd up nicely. Finishing off with their winning song Red Tape, Cruz exit the stage, while the crowd waits expectantly for the men of the hour.

Shortly after 9p.m., the big screen on stage is filled with a Maltese cross against a red backdrop. Winter Moods enter the stage one by one to the sound of crackling radio frequencies and synth soundscapes provided by keyboardist Etienne Robinich. Each band member gradually feeds into the instrumental intro of Sun Won’t Shine, opening track from their latest album release Argento; guitarist Melvin Caruana injects sonorous guitar feedback into the mix, whilst bassist Joseph Rizzo and new drummer Karl Fenech form the steady rhythmic backbone.

Frontman Ivan Grech is last to come on stage, waving and showing his gratitude to the impressive 9,000 strong turnout. He is wearing a black shirt that bears the new Winter Moods logo on his right arm, and the Maltese cross on his left. Ivan is immediately on fine form, hitting big notes with his cool raspy timbre which has been a defining element of the Winter Moods sound over these last 25 years. When Ivan sings chorus line “The sun won’t shine without you”, the crowd is bathed in celestial white floodlights amongst rapturous applause and cheering. The band dive straight into second song Walk On By, after which Grech declares “Here we are, one big happy family,” while pointing to the entire audience. Clearly the band feels this is as much the crowd’s night as it is their own, a fact they are keen to emphasise throughout this emotionally charged show.

Evidently Winter Moods and the whole crew behind them have gone through great lengths to pull out all the stops and ensure the audience is treated to a show on par with international standards. Nine songs in and the Animae Gospel choir are welcomed on stage for two numbers. Crowd favourite Everyday Song is especially stunning with the supplemental gospel harmonies. Soon after, the band leave the stage and shortly reappear walking down an aisle from the back of the crowd up onto a small stage in the middle of the venue - a feat which must have required impeccable logistical organisation. Here they deliver a few acoustic numbers, including a bluesy rendition of Water and a poignant piano led cover of Maltese classic Xemx, originally recorded in the ‘70s by late Gozitan Dominic Grech and his band The Tramps, which gets most of the crowd singing heartily along. Another brief interlude and the band are back on the mainstage.

Surprisingly, fan favourites such as Jamaica and Lonely Vegas were left out to make way for the new and as yet, less familiar material from the Argento album. The band’s pièce de résistance Marigold is greeted with a flurry of sparklers in the front rows. Smiles all around, the ecstatic crowd sing their hearts out to this song which has already earned its place as one of the most popular Maltese songs ever, despite it only being a few years old. By the end of their two and a half hour set, Winter Moods have boldly proven that local music can be taken to new heights with just enough hard work and dedication ... and of course with the help of a Maltese public that holds you dearly in its heart.