By: Mackenzie Moran
Detroit (CBS Detroit) – Walking into Greta Van Fleet’s second sold-out show in Detroit on May 24th, 2018, I had two goals in mind: to be one of the lucky few in the front row and not to use my cell phone.
The first goal I reached with prowess, having gotten to the Fillmore a few hours early to wait in line with the rest of the young people vying to be right in the action. I had purchased a ticket last minute, knowing I would regret missing the group’s three-night parade in Detroit if I had chosen not to attend, and wanted to make my experience as authentic as possible.
The second goal I lost sight of after the opening number. Nowadays venues are lit up by the lights of their screens rather than the lighters of late, and I had been determined to witness emerging greatness with my own eyes rather than through my iPhone screen. But as the show progressed, I couldn’t help myself.
I had a feeling that seeing the four young men of Frankenmuth, Michigan revive the rock music I was raised on was going to be one of those “I was there” moments within the next few years. Looking back, I am confident this will be true.
As a 23-year-old raised on the classics, the band’s Zeppelin-like feel and ability to go off on a musical tangent had me hooked when I was first heard “Highway Tune” during the summer of 2017. Even more so when I found out the band members were my age, a few even younger.
Josh Kiszka, the lead vocalist, and his twin brother Jake, the lead guitarist, are 22-year-old twins. Sam Kiszka, on bass and keys, is their younger brother of 3 years. Danny Wagner, 19, rounds out the quartet on drums as the only bandmate who is not a brother.
At the beginning of the set, Josh, whose vocals have often been compared to Robert Plant, waltzed onto the stage carrying a handful of roses, tossing them out to a group of screaming fans before jumping into their opening number, “Highway Tune.” His vocals did not disappoint, even his stage presence and hand gestured resembled the iconic Plant.
Jake emphasized his talent on lead guitar during his first solo, strumming casually over his head as his 1961 Gibson Les Paul faced the audience, a move resembling the late Jimi Hendrix. Throughout the show, the two brothers would play off each other, Jake’s riffs returned by Josh’s high-pitched vocals in what seemed like a battle of pitch and endurance.
Sam hopped around the stage barefoot, switching back and forth between bass and keys, later showcasing his duality during a keyboard solo on one of the bands unreleased tracks. Danny’s highlight moment came towards the end of the show, during a four-minute drum solo strategically played during the encore set.
Each member was clad in get-ups that made them look as if they walked straight on stage out of Woodstock. Their style in combination with their sound created an atmosphere reminiscent of the 60s and 70s that spoke to all members of the audience, both young and old. Even Gretna Van Fleet, the elderly Frankenmuth native who inspired the name of the band, was in attendance, and received a special shout out before the boys rolled into the song “Flower Power.”
Personally, I couldn’t get enough of the energy. I can’t remember a time in my life when I’ve seen a 22-year-old wail so hard on a guitar, to the point where he could take any song down a new, creative path, and bring it back full circle. I felt not only inspired but excited for their music to come.
The fact that the band has already received comparisons to rock ‘n’ roll legends with only an eight-song EP under their belt is big (their first album is not due until late summer). Besides, the boys have only been touring for a year, and are already selling out venues within minutes of ticket sales opening, all cues of good things to come as they mature and grow as artists.
The next day as my brother (who attended Tuesday night’s show) and my father (who had VIP passes for Wednesday’s gig) discussed the set over dinner, lots of comparisons to the rock gods of the 20th century were tossed back and forth. Don’t get me wrong, my love for Led Zeppelin led my initial attraction, but after seeing them live, I see Greta Van Fleet as something entirely different than a classic rock “tribute” band.
Greta Van Fleet has revived the sounds that many thought had disappeared into the past as mainstream music became overrun by electronic noise. While there is some great music being put into the world today, I have yet to see fans of such a wide age range latch on so hard to a band in the early stages of their career. The boys’ following is getting larger by the day, not only in the U.S. but around the world.
Rather than comparing the group to those that rocked before them, I would rather see Greta Van Fleet as their own entity, a group of young guys who are on their way to save rock ‘n’ roll by merely playing the music they know best. Based on what I witnessed Wednesday night, I think they have a good shot.
Greta Van Fleet’s presence has been felt, and I salute them as they catapult into the world of rock, knowing that with their talent, they will have the capacity to create the kind of music that will inspire generations to believe in peace, love, and rock ‘n’ roll once again.
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