With the stage shrouded in darkness, Greta Van Fleet singer Josh Kiszka tossed flowers into the crowd (a Mother’s Day gesture?) as the foursome crept behind their instruments.
The mostly sold-out crowd erupted as guitarist Jake Kiszka (Josh’s twin) tossed out the nasty lick of “Safari Song,” Josh nailed a patented wail and an overhead slab of lights illuminated the Fox Theatre with arena-worthy power.
While Greta Van Fleet has traveled Australia and Europe since January on this “March of the Peaceful Army” tour, the quartet is only three dates into the U.S. leg, which will bring them back to the Fox on Monday night for a second performance (a handful of tickets remain; British duo Ida Mae opens).
At the close of “Safari,” as Josh’s left hand clutched the air as it would throughout the show, mesh-vest-clad drummer Danny Wagner rolled into a zippy drum break before the band broke into “Black Smoke Rising.”
Ah, yes. What rock ‘n’ roll used to be – loud, mystical and sometimes even musically robust.
Greta Van Fleet is, of course, derivative of Led Zeppelin the same way The Struts pull from Queen and Leon Bridges found influence in Sam Cooke.
(The band’s moniker, in case you’re wondering, is a variation of the name of a resident from their native Frankenmuth, Mich.)
Maybe Josh Kiszka doesn’t intend to sound identical to a young Robert Plant - but he does, albeit a smiley, danger-devoid version (he also bears a physical resemblance to Roger Daltrey mixed with Gino Vannelli – look him up, kids). And while it would be ridiculous to impound that level of vocal talent, no doubt there are people who will never give Greta Van Fleet a fair assessment because of the similarities.
Their songs, while heavy on the blues-smeared rock of Zeppelin, also dabble in Allman-esque sounds as evidenced on “Flower Power”(bassist and organist Sam Kiszka, the youngest of the brothers, was a marvel as he hopped between instruments), as well as prog-rock-era Yes, as designed on “The Music is You” intro to “You’re the One.”
The rise of Greta Van Fleet might seem rapid, but the band has been gigging since 2012, with a live EP arriving in 2014. They released their full-length debut, “Anthem of the Peaceful Army,” in October, but claimed a best rock album Grammy Award in February for their 2017 EP, “From the Fires.”
They’ve also been greeted feverishly on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts, with four singles – “Highway Tune,” “Safari Song,” “When the Curtain Falls” and “You’re the One” – hitting No. 1.
While their live show offered stunning lighting – even the dark stage backlit with a blue haze during “Black Flag Exposition” and the sea of dry ice and red lighting for “Watching Over” were mesmerizing – and the band’s instruments sounded rich and crisp, Josh’s vocals were frequently muddled, except, of course, for those heavens-reaching cries.
Greta Van Fleet is still at the infancy of its potential, and as the band grows, it will expand its musical palette.
But to unite graybeards, bell-bottomed hippies, college kids in surfer shorts and tweens in hoodies is commendable. And to do it with actual songs with hooks and choruses and guitar solos is a diminishing art that needs this resurrection.
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