Photos by Dan Soderstrom
There’s a great deal of pressure that comes with reviewing Greta Van Fleet.
Nearly a year ago, Pitchfork’s scathing review of their debut album Anthem of the Peaceful Army heralded an online split.
Either you’re like the masses on Reddit who label the band as Led Zeppelin 2.0 with a certain level of vitriol, or you’re in the camp that says their prayers to the almighty rock gods for sending these young whippersnappers to save music.
But wherever you fall on this rudimentary scale, there is no denying that Greta Van Fleet do take the Led Zeppelin inspiration to entirely new heights. Greta Van Fleet are so influenced by the English rock band, that it’s hard to ever stop comparing them. The similarities are uncanny that even Robert Plant – Zeppelin’s lead singer – acknowledged them.
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So with so much hate, how does a reviewer approach a band that is unapologetically unoriginal? I fall into the camp of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery.
Greta Van Fleet may be imitating a style of classic rock without much of their individual signature, but they do it so gosh darn well that it’s forgivable. The show felt, at times, like a trip back in time. And I’m not just talking about the hairstyles. The way the crowd interacted with Greta was magic, frontman Josh Kiszka had the crowd under his spell.
Dressed like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Dennis Reynolds as the Dayman, Kiszka led the group of his brothers and friends with an on-stage ease that surpasses his 23 years. The setlist was perfect, something that’s all the more impressive considering they only released their debut studio album last year. There was not a dull moment throughout the entire evening, and time sped by.
The absolute highlight of the show, was when they played ‘Anthem’ live for the first time, before settling into a nearly 12-minute blues instrumental, ushered in by brilliant blue lighting. With a complete reshuffle of band positions – frontman on drums, drummer on bass, guitarist on harmonica – the jam session gave each band member time to shine in all their solo glory. It culminated in one band member almost duelling with himself, alternating between a guitar riff and soulful harmonica solo; I shed my jacket to have more range to dance.
And just when you thought it couldn’t get any more fantastic, he flipped his guitar over his shoulders, behind his head, and played it behind his head, back to the audience.
The frenetic pace of the solo encompassed all the reasons that Greta Van Fleet are so compelling. Their musicianship is top notch, I don’t think any of them played a single note wrong all night, and Kiszka’s voice is sinfully good, as it screeches into its signature high register.
They are imperfect in theory, derivatively bordering on plagiarism. But in practice, it is impossible to ignore the fact that they are pure joy. Judging this show within a vacuum, completely devoid of influence from other reviewers and intellectualised music journalism, it was infectiously entertaining. One of the best performances I’ve witnessed in recent memory, and I can’t wait to see them grow beyond the Zeppelin comparisons and into themselves.
Highlight: The moment a guitar was flipped during an extended blues solo.
Lowlight: The end, how cheesy! I truly did not want it to end.
Crowd favourite: ‘When the Curtain Falls’.