The Venditti Experience
After an absence of 11 years, Antonello Venditti’s return to the Maltese stage proved to be memorable, in many ways. Ever since his presence at The Malta Music Awards in 2001 he has surely kept up with the times. His presentation, and a fully-fledged eight-piece orchestra which at times sounded more than double the complement and an assertive delivery has arguably rendered this event the best rock concert of the year to date.
Venditti, who has carved his niche as a leading influential and unique Italian singer-songwriter long ago performed as part of his Unica album tour. The opening song and title of his album immediately indicated what was in store, as he and his band lived up to their reputation for rendering great tunes, past and present and definitely sounding very much attuned to this present day and age, in terms of melodies and technology. Different shapes and hues, related both to the imageries of Unica as well as various other paraphernalia ranging from trumpets, fire, dots, loops and a myriad of colours characterised the stage settings, a quantum leap from 2001. However, Venditti and co. are more substance than style. The semi-electronic vocal treatment on Oltre Il Confine, was surprisingly refreshing, given his age (64). So were the double drumming and the dub arrangements from Derek J. Wilson and Alessandro Canini on Forever.
The fine saxophone arrangements from Amadeo Bianchi were almost on par with the eminent Gato Barbieri’s original album versions on Unica. However, the band members were indeed really compact, with two guitarists Bendetto Panzanelli and Maurizio Perfetto being very much in synch, at times sounding quite versatile too. The audience at the outdoor venue of the MFCC was highly receptive to classics like Ci Vorebbe Un Amico, Benvenuti in Paradiso, Sara and Alta Marea among others. One would have also expected his socio-political songs like Bomba o No Bomba and his most recently, highly-debated La Ragazza di Lunedi to feature in this concert after all, Venditti made it clear that his concert consisted of two themes –love and liberty and he managed to blend these themes in almost equal proportions. He did find some time to address socio-political issues notably racial harmony in his reference to Sandy Chambers and Julia St. Louis, who are two fine soul-influenced UK singers of Afro-Carib origin, much respected by Venditti and of course, his reference to his beloved A.S. Roma was inevitable, albeit a little bit scant. He could however done away with his cigarette smoking onstage. Those days of the rat-pack smokers back in the 1950s have long been replaced by a more vigilant view about the dangers of smoking.
Venditti was fine in his delivery of the more amorous sentimental songs like Ricordatemi di Te and the reggae-tinged Piero e Cinzia, originally featured on Cuore in 1984. Sotto il Segno dei Pesci was updated with searing guitar sounds that were more reminiscent of U2 rather than the piano-laden melody that graced the Italian charts of summer of 1978; frankly, Venditti and co. spoilt it. Having commenced at around 10.10 pm, the concert lasted two and half hours and no one really felt like leaving the venue at the end of the encores.
It was also great watching Winter Moods perform, again with zest and commitment. I am pretty sure that the Venditti experience served them as another milestone in their career and surely inculcated some experiences which could prove beneficial. Their new song, a rockier version of The Tramps’ classic Xemx, in aid of Puttinu Cares is refreshing and wonderful, and in the process, they have also made it very much their own song too.