Have you ever heard a band for the first time on the radio and stopped dead in your tracks, needing to immediately find out who it was? Well, that’s what happened to me the very first time I heard Greta Van Fleet on the radio about a year ago. So when I heard they were playing practically in my backyard at the Starland Ballroom (Sayreville, New Jersey), I jumped at the chance to attend.
To say my expectations were high is an understatement. The throwback rock and roll sound that is inherently their own is right in my sweet spot of musical taste. I couldn’t wait to see and hear if their live performance matched the unique, mature sounds of their album From The Fires.
I was NOT disappointed. In fact, the performance was better than I had hoped. They brought the house down, and the more than sold out crowd of all ages wholeheartedly agreed.
Greta Van Fleet consists of brothers Josh Kiszka (vocalist), Jake Kiszka (guitarist), and Sam Kiszka (bass, keyboards), as well as drummer Danny Wagner. The band formed in Frankenmuth, Michigan in 2012. Josh and Jake are twenty-two-year-old twins, Sam is nineteen, and Danny twenty years old. The reason their ages are worthy of discussion is because these musicians already possess a polished dynamic sound that typically takes bands years to develop. Maybe it’s the familial connection, innate musical talents, or an overabundance of energy. Whatever it is, these kids are the real deal and it’s an exciting experience to see them live.
Their stage presence was relaxed and natural, even during the brief time the sound system gave them a little trouble. They looked the part of seasoned rockers too. Josh, in his black leather pants, flowing shirt and feather necklace exuded a level of confidence very mature for his age. Sam was calm, cool and collected and wore a contemporary, blue embroidered jacket, playing the whole show in his bare feet. Jake and Danny had the tried-and-true rock styles that appeal to the masses.
But enough about fashion; let’s get to the music. Many have compared Josh’s vocals to Robert Plant’s, and the band’s musical style to Led Zeppelin. Although I understand those comparisons, I’m here to tell you that Greta Van Fleet’s sound is most definitely their own home-grown entity. Josh demonstrated his impressive vocal range by hitting and holding high notes I didn’t even know existed. He navigated difficult tonal runs with ease and accentuated the music beats with iconic poses and moves. Danny’s percussive talents did not go unnoticed, especially during his impressive, three-minute solo at the end of Safari Song which closed out the night.
Now there has to be special homage paid to Sam and Jake. If you want comparisons, how about likening Jake’s original guitar riffs to those of Joe Walsh, or the similarities of Sam’s bass skills to Geddy Lee’s? The complexity of the bass line runs showed off Sam’s instinctive aptitude for the instrument, while Jake’s solos were melodic enough to be their own songs. These kids know how to jam like pros. Their chemistry and combined talents created classic rock jams that haven’t been heard in a very long time. It felt like I was relaxing on the lawn at a summer concert listening to a well-known rock band show off their skills.
Was I alone in experiencing these feelings? Nope, not at all. I spoke with fans in their forties, fifties, and sixties who were shaking their heads in disbelief and amazement. They all had smiles on their faces. It’s a sound true rock fans have been starving for (for a long time) but thought had completely died out. We stood elbow-to-elbow with tweens and teens whose faces showed adoration for the young musicians. NJ fans Natalie Cribbin, and her mom Linda, attended the concert together. Both raved about Greta Van Fleet’s rock-laced music. Although they admitted that their musical tastes are somewhat different, they both agreed that Greta Van Fleet is a special band that is going to make their mark in the world. It was cool to see a family dynamic as part of this band’s fan base.
Electric gold our love with tender care
Hills of satin grass and maidens fair
Now she rides through the night
On a silver storm
Sword in hand
Our fate's torn
She's a sparrow of the dawn
Our love is born
-Flower Power [From The Fires]
Solid rock music typically consists of well-written poetic lyrics, heartfelt melodies, catchy refrains, and driving rhythms. Outstanding rock music, though, includes a higher level of artistry – nuances, pauses, and distinctive sounds - that differentiate and elevate it. However, when all of those characteristics come together in a group of artists who are young, focused, and talented … the growth and development of incomparable rock music becomes a real possibility.
GRETA VAN FLEET. Remember that name. You will be hearing great things about them again and again for many years to come.
1. Highway Tune
2. Edge of Darkness
3. When The Cold Wind Blows
4. Talk On The Street
5. Flower Power
6. You’re The One
7. Evil (Howlin’ Wolf cover)
8. Mountain Of The Sun
9. Watching Over
10. Lover Leaver Taker Believer (With "Rollin and Tumblin" and "That's All Right" jam in the middle)
11. Black Smoke Rising
12. Safari Song