Great to meet Superdave! We'll have to do a show or two together in the future.
So just let me say up front. I think Greta Van Fleet are the real deal. What you hear on record is what they deliver live. I have been to the Starland Ballroom here in NJ about 20 times. Jeff Beck, The (new) Petenders, Johnny Winter, Silverchair, Alter Bridge, Chris Cornell, George Clinton, Thornley and on…But never to a sold out show. GVF was sold out. 2500 people that ranged from 25-65 with the majority in their 40’s. LOTS of parents with their 20 something kids. The crowd knew every word or at least mumbled the verses loudly, sang out the choruses and howled along with with every Plant-like dive bomb throughout. I talked to a good range of people there to see them for the first time. None had ever seen them before. None seemed too jaded or cynical as to whether the band could actually deliver. They were excited to see this new bunch of kids do good.
In my estimation they did better than good. Josh Kiszka, the singer, really is the hook for the band. He gets you in the door with all his unstrained RP power. I love his unpretentiousness. He is having a ball doing this. It’s a weird kind of performing for your parents (who adore you) kind of vibe. We could not hear a word he said to the crowd. We were on a 3 stair riser behind the sound booth and the sound was awful. It was all too bass heavy, the guitar was lost in the mix. When he sang the vox was up front and prominent but when he talked to the crowd the vocals just got lost. I will watch it on youtube later and find out what he said, but I’ve seen him before have some pretty clever asides. I like this kid. He sounds pretty smart and together. Kind of gobsmacked at the whole GVF phenomenon.
Lots of people there to experience what they thought it would be like to hear Led Zepp. There were maybe 20 people there who actually experienced LZ in their heyday. Probably none who ever got to see Zep at the stage of their career playing in a small venue like Starland Ballroom. That would have to be like ’68-’69 so many where there to feed their imaginations. GVF is in no way comparable to the raw animal power that Zep had, but if you never experienced LZ, what the hell. These guys will do.
GVF are NOT some LZ cover Z band. If you came for the Zep flavor, you stayed and partied for the strength of the songs. They are young and exuberant and they have that going for them. They are tight as brothers but loose as kids. Sam Kiszka is the bass/keyboard player. He is completely loose and fun to watch. I think that he is the driving force behind most of the songs even though he was WAY too loud in the mix. His bass lines propel the songs and he’s a very fluid player. The keys were classic Zep but avoided the uncanny valley (where in animation something looks almost real but not quite and triggers the brain to dangerous discernment). It was all in the warm traditional Zep I & II family. I think he has a real future.
Jake Kiszka is the guitarist and he throws his all into every song. He even played behind his neck on one song. They stretched a few numbers because let’s face it, they don’t actually have an album’s worth of music yet. The stretches were interesting if not jaw dropping. Jake is an ok player. He was too low in the mix for my taste. The riffs were delivered with full enthusiasm but he lacks the power in some spots. He hits that sloppy-Jimmy-Page-in-the-late-70’s-playing-what-he-did-so-much-more-masterfully-tight-in-the-early-70’s groove quite nicely. He’s a bit frantic when needed and blows it by with enthusiasm. His slide playing is just ok. I’m no player, but I consider myself a discerning fan and have seen MANY who have IT. This kid cannot carry the show. If he develops as a player, his riffing shows promise. He strums madly for effect. It worked to get most of the crowd hyped, but for me it just does not do it.
The drummer Danny Wagner was powerful and enthusiastic. He was quite bombastic but fit the songs perfectly. His solo at the end was ok and of course Bonham inspired. But like I said to Bet, if you are of a certain age you’ve seen most of the best in their prime. Let’s just say, he has potential.
Pretty talented, LOTS of enthusiasm, a crowd that wants them to succeed like I’ve never seen before at a first viewing of a band, combined with that youthful energy and exuberance made for a great show. They did a few songs not yet studio recorded and they were only ok. I always like to hear stuff I have never heard before and have a good ear for what is going to be good long term. The three or four unrecorded songs were filler.
They did Howlin’ Wolf, Evil and some Elvis, That’s Alright Momma and just KILLED it! So much fun to see them give life to those old bones. Good old RocknRoll and Blues being played to most who have never really experienced it in full glory was great to hear. One of the high points for me. Edge of Darkness, Flower Power, Black Smoke Rising, Talk on The Street, Highway Tune (which they opened with) were all on target.
From the moment I heard Safari song, I KNEW that it would be a hit for them. It was the final song and it slayed. It’s got all the elements. An almost AC/DC simplicity, a howling start, a sexy Plant-like low delivery “hey Mama” lyric and some PERFECT dynamics. They knocked this one out of the hall. It’s kind of funny that when Josh sings “hey mama won’t you come on down….” he singing to mostly women who could actually be his mama! In spite of that it has that brash strut that would be all too cheesy for someone any older than these kids to sing without being completely tongue in cheek.
To sum it up, they are a sugar rush that delivers for a damned long time. Bored me in spots, especially in the jamming stretches. Glad I went to see them. Lots of fun and pure potential. Some DAMNED good original, if highly derivative music. Their progress will be interesting to watch. Hopefully they can avoid cynicism while improving their skills. They just might be able to.