Where to begin? That's the question that first sprang to my mind when I thought of jotting down some words about Winter Moods' recent 30th Anniversary concert. I'd seen the band perform countless times before, a good number of them dating back to the early days when the band's backdrop was certainly no giant digital screen, the PA not an arena-sized set-up and the venue not the magnificently renovated Fort St. Elmo. Yet even standing on a simple stage in some village youth centre hall or other with only a modest sound and light system at the time, Winter Moods always projected a particular charisma that immediately connected with their audience. It is a characteristic that, over and above the music that has been equally effective in reaching out to so many all these years, remains as consistent, authentic and effective now as it was back then.
But I digress. Where to begin becomes suddenly clear; the answer is at the end of course. As I walked out of the historical grounds that, for the past four hours had hosted a marvellous spectacle of live music, the words, the emotion of final encore Days of my life - by far one of my favourite Winter Moods songs - were still echoing in my head. On top of it all, bits and pieces from the concert I have just witnessed were flashing in my mind, falling in and out of place but ultimately leaving me with just one conclusion - this was a truly amazing night, a wonderfully uplifting performance that was as full of emotion as it was of music, as lasting a memory for all those present as it will always be for the band, who on this night celebrated yet another milestone in their long-standing tenure as one of the island's top rock acts.
The main act aside, it was a very pleasant warm-up that the talented young artist Joe Roscoe and the local scene's latest starlets The New Victorians provided, and I was certainly pleased to see a sizeable crowd turn up early enough to catch their opening acts. Later on, teen singer-songwriter Hannah Brown was invited onstage to perform her own Kicking down the wall and then accompanied the band on Water. Winter Moods are known to support upcoming talent this way, but this was a brief glimpse into perhaps the most incredible talent they've invited onstage to date. Talent that this coy young girl clearly has lots of, and of whom we shall be hearing more, of this I am certain.
But, back to the main act it is, and rightfully so. This was their special night after all, though I must say they did go out of their way to make it as special for everybody there too. An intimate concert (by way of the venue's restricted capacity) is how this concert was billed, but what really made it intimate was the band's onstage interaction (a reflection of the brotherhood that exists even offstage) and the occasional anecdote adding a personal touch to the performance. In my mind, the band playing Miss You, Everyday Song and Lights are fading out were among the concert's peaks; the latter a particularly moving tribute to founding member Steve 'Serp' Caruana Smith, and also one of the standout tracks on the band's latest album The Journey.
Standing at the front gave me a vantage point to appreciate the full impact of the performance but it was abundantly clear from the rousing crowd response that the energy onstage had stretched out to every nook and cranny in Fort St.Elmo's courtyard. For the record, let me just say that the song Sarah clearly remains a firm crowd favourite despite the fact that the band has moved on from that early sound, and to state the obvious, Marigold, Everlasting and My Neverland are undisputed crowdpleasers, but what the band offered on the night was much more than that. Having followed Winter Moods for a good chunk of their existence, I can confirm the set they played painted a pretty good picture of the band's 30-year journey in music, delivered with the same passion as always and, not for the first time, raising a significant sum of money for Puttinu Cares, who will be receiving all of the proceeds from the concert's ticket sales.
An edited version of this article was first published on The Sunday Times of Malta (19 July 2015)