Greta Van Fleet Bring Their Retro Rock Sounds To Hollywood. Check out our review, photos and found video of the show at The Palladium!
HOLLYWOOD, CA- Greta Van Fleet is a band that, unless you were locked away in an underground bunker with Kimmy Schmidt, you’ve probably heard a ton of buzz about. The young, rising rockers from Michigan have been praised for their classic rock sounds and some feel their style is the exact kind of rock n roll revival that this generation is in desperate need of. There’s really no other mainstream bands that have that traditional hard rock sound anymore. That’s not to say everyone feels the same. Many old school rock lovers have criticized the band, saying they are an unoriginal Led Zeppelin rip off. Pitchfork even gave their latest album “Anthem Of A Peaceful Army” a 1.6 out of 10 rating. Jeez. Well, you know what they say… haters gonna hate. There’s no pleasing everyone. With that being said, the band (made up by brothers Josh (vocals), Jake (guitar) and Sam Kiszka (bass, keys) along with buddy Danny Wagner on drums) seem to be winning most of the world over, regardless of the endless comparisons. Even those who have thought that way about them, in the beginning, are changing their tune because song by song, performance after performance, there’s simply no denying the insane talent these fellas possess. Seriously, they are some gifted dudes. And the fact that they are so young blows my mind! So for the few haters left out there- just stop and give in already…cuz these guys are not going anywhere! And their two night, sold-out stand at the legendary Hollywood Palladium this past weekend proved that even more.
As I made my way into the venue, I was surprised by how diverse the age range of the crowd was. Typically when a band consists of teens or young adults, you expect the crowd to match that but I think there were just as many if not more oldies (no offense, I’m one of them) than youngsters. The bars were packed and the venue even made drink specials inspired by the band like “Black Rum Rising” and the fans definitely got a kick out of the references. I’ve seen countless shows at the Palladium, but every now and then you can feel the energy is different, special. This night was one of those nights and I felt it immediately when I stepped inside. People were excited and they were talking about it, bonding with strangers. I met a man who brought his 3 kids with him and he told me it was their first concert. What a cool Dad and lucky kids to have such an awesome first concert! I was definitely as excited as everyone else to finally experience their live show.
Opening the night was Oakland based rockabilly quartet, Shannon and The Clams, another band who have a very vintage sound. Whereas GVF has the 70’s rock thing going, Shannon and the Clams have a doo-wop 50’s/60’s vibe, mixed with garage surf punk. If John Waters made a sequel to Crybaby, Shannon and the Clams would be the soundtrack. I could tell a lot of the crowd was just restlessly waiting for them to end but I personally dug them. I think the more mellow energy was a good contrast to what the Greta boys were about to unleash upon us.
The band was scheduled to go on at 9 pm but were about 20 minutes late, making the audience even more anxious than they already were. All was quickly forgiven when the band took the stage and ignited the crowd with the opening guitar riff of “Highway Tune” off their second EP “From The Fires.” The song was the first one the band ever wrote and recorded and I read that Jake was fourteen when he first came up with the riff! Fourteen!! (Shakes head in disbelief) When lead singer Josh opened his mouth and let out the first wail of the night, I think the whole venue had chills. Holy shit, that boy can SING! His voice was spot on and he was hitting all the monster notes effortlessly. Damn, I was instantly in complete and utter awe.
Josh’s signature voice is absolutely something to talk about but the others are equally impressive, most notably Jake. His strong guitar riffs and ferocious solos were unbelievable. At just 23, his skills are on point with the best virtuosos out there. I was totally mesmerized. Towards the end of the second song “Edge of Darkness,” Jake took the spotlight and proceeded to crush a ten minute, jaw-dropping guitar solo. In the end, he did the coolest rock move in the books and played the guitar behind his head. The crowd went nuts! We were in rock n roll heaven! I could feel myself slowly turning into a fangirl and these guys are practically half my age but I was swooning away like I was back in high school. As I looked around, I could tell everyone was feeling the same.
While Jake murdered us with his rip-roaring, insane talent, Josh ran around the stage barefoot and pumped up the crowd. Rocking a skin-tight white retro jumpsuit that only someone with complete swagger and total confidence could pull off, Josh worked every inch of the stage, evoking squeals and hollers galore. His smile and energy were infectious. His stage presence is that of a true rock star. The other guys are stars too. Danny was full of spunk when pounding away on the drums, his gorgeous locks flying about and delivered thunderous beats. Sam, who also donned no shoes, had the chill cool guy vibe, as he slapped away on his lime-green bass. Only two songs in and GVF had us in the palm of their hands. So many ‘holy shit’ moments this early on, I could barely wait to see what else they had in store.
The boys continued to boggle our minds with extended versions of their songs such as the Grammy-nominated “Black Smoke Rising,” “Age Of Man” and “The Cold Wind.” They only slowed it down for the ballad “You’re The One” when brothers Josh and Jake shared a sweet moment during the chorus and sang it together on one mic, back to back. Everything about the show was electrifying and I kept thinking that they not only met my expectations but exceeded them. I had watched a lot of footage from their past performances and knew they were awesome showmen, but I honestly can’t remember when I’ve been so completely intoxicated by a performance to this level. I think anyone who thinks they are rip-offs needs to get their asses to one of their shows asap because there is nothing bogus about what these guys do. Even Sir Elton John has sung their praises, so much that last year he invited and performed with them at his Oscar party. I read that Elton gave the boys some key advice afterward, encouraging them to be more dramatic and flamboyant in their performances and to “flaunt what you’ve got.” They clearly took his advice and ran with it because they were flaunting what their mama gave them with no shame.
They closed out their main set with “The Cold Wind” and “When The Curtain Falls.” Though they only played 9 songs in the main set, it didn’t feel like a short set at all. They managed to turn every song into an epic, exhilarating performance filled with solos aplenty. The whole thing was so rock-n-roll, I felt I had been transported to another time. After they left the stage, everyone stayed put, anticipating an encore. When the boys returned the crowd cheered as wildly as they did at the beginning of the night.
For the encore, GVF pulled out two cherished tunes to end the night. During “Flower Power” Sam had his turn to shine with a brilliant solo on the keys. Amazing I tell you, ah-mazing! And Josh’s ad-libs and runs were ridiculous. There was no way they could possibly do more for the last song then they had already done I thought. Well, I was wrong. During “Safari Song” we were treated with yet another thrilling solo, but this time it was Danny’s turn. Midway through the song, Danny let loose and beat the hell out of the drums for a rousing five-minute solo. As the song came to an end, the crowd’s cheers were at a fever pitch. Holy shit, what a show.
GVF has a few more shows left on this tour and has plans to release another album before the year ends. I’m excited to hear how their sound evolves on this next record. I imagine with a sound as big as theirs, it won’t be long before they move to stadium shows so I am super thankful I got to see them at a more intimate venue. GVF, you won me over, completely