If you're familiar with the music of Winter Moods, you'll probably have recognized the title of this article as part of the lyrics from their song My Neverland. Alongside Marigold, Everyday Song, Miss You and Everlasting, it is one of their more popular ballads. Anyone who knows Ivan Grech knows only too well that love, in its many forms, has never been far from any song he has penned and, given the philanthropic cause linked to his recent second solo concert, its significance resonates even more strongly.
"This is what it's all about, coming together as one... giving is receiving", Ivan Grech posted on Facebook after the concert had come and gone, yielding the sum of over €20K from ticket proceeds and donations to boost ALS Malta's efforts towards funding research and awareness about ALS. Founded by Bjorn Formosa soon after he was diagnosed with the chronic ALS disease, ALS Malta has been garnering a lot of support from the art and music sectors in particular. When all is said and done, one could say that the amount collected is what really matters here but, in all fairness, one cannot dismiss this particular concert's vital role in collecting said amount. Further to this, one must also acknowledge and appreciate the work put into staging such an event, both by the band as well as by the administrative team.
So, it's no secret that Winter Moods are on a sabbatical; they have been for the best part of two years, soon after the release of their 2015 album The Journey in fact. This however, has not held their frontman Ivan Grech back. On the contrary, it has allowed him the space to focus on other ideas and bring them to fruition. Last year the biggest of these, musically-speaking, was his first solo concert at Pjazza Teatru Rjal, which proved a complete success. It was therefore no surprise that he came back with a second edition this year, relocating to the picturesque Ta' Liesse this time around.
Held last month, Grech’s second solo concert surprisingly did not feature any U2 songs at all. I'm sure there may have been plans to include one, but these seem to have been sidelined for some reason or other. The upside here, is that even without a nod to one of his primary idols, Ivan Grech still put together an effective repertoire that engaged the audience present. Clocking in at just over two hours, the concert kicked off with the Winter Moods song Hang on to your smile, an upbeat number that pretty much dictated the feel-good vibe that would linger on throughout the night. The song was one of several Winter Moods numbers included in the set, boosted by an appealing selection of covers which the singer claims form part of the soundtrack to his life. No arguments there, as those same songs were more than likely also reference pints in the lives of a great part of the audience present.
The 2000-strong crowd (yours truly included) made no secret of their connection to the featured songs either. It was great fun singing along to old gems like Tainted Love, Shout or Don't You (Forget About Me) along with everyone else, and I have to say I was most impressed to see the crowd this singing Winter Moods' songs practically word for word, which perhaps underlines the popularity of this band among local audiences. Going back to the covers performed, I'd have to pick Marillion's Kayleigh, complete with Lavender segue and Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb as my personal favourites on the night. They worked as well as any U2 song would have.
Compared to last year's concert, this year there were fewer guests, but this did not quite diminish any of the energy that was emanating from the stage. And here I must mention the special guest of the night, Pascal Kravetz. As with his performance alongside Carl Carlton last year, he added a touch of class to the performance with his musical talent and, with his rather lively attire quite a bit of colour too. The internationally-renowned musician joined the band on a few upbeat numbers, proceeding to the accompany Ivan Grech on a stripped-down piano medley that was surely a high point of the night. So much so, that the renditions of Bridge Over Troubled Water and Winter Moods' own Miss You, featuring the La Voix children's choir did pale in comparison. As I had commented after last year's concert, I was still hopeful for a new song from Ivan, but at least the inclusion of Not the end (off The Journey album) was a welcome addition to the set.
Going back to the verse I quoted for the title of this article (from My Neverland), it actually continues with "it's all about you and I" and, music aside, this is probably the best way to describe the personal connection that Ivan Grech, whether fronting Winter Moods or in this case, an all-new formation, successfully establishes when he is on that stage. There is no doubting how passionate Ivan Grech is about making music, but when it comes to sharing it with the public from the stage, he truly does become fully immersed. Just like his first solo concert the previous year, this was again a night filled with energy and emotion!
Ivan Grech was accompanied by Jeremy Micallef and David Cassar Torreggiani on guitars, David Ciantar on keyboards, Robert Galea on bass and Raphael Tonna on drums. The backing vocalists were Angela Spiteri, Jackie Pace Delicata and Louisa Frendo Wirth. Local artist Christabelle performed an opening set.
This article was first published on The Sunday Times of Malta on September 3, 2017.