- 17 Nov 23
Greta Van Fleet held rock mass at Dublin’s 3Arena last night, with a hefty tour de force of arena excellence, complete with extravagant wardrobe changes, pyrotechnics and proggy guitar solo theatrics.
An Americana-inflected amalgam of classic rock, blues and hair metal at its proggiest, Greta Van Fleet’s sound is anchored by introspective, mystical lyricism, virtuosic playing and frontman Josh Kiszka’s powerhouse vocality; pair that with a few over-the-shoulder glances at Led Zeppelin’s well-honed homework, and you have yourself a winner – a delightfully anachronistic and theatrical arena rock act, that is more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the heavy hitters of rock music’s dusty annals. Hailing from Michigan, the band’s been at it since 2012, garnering quite the dedicated following.
As the crowd buzzed with anticipation, an orchestral interlude echoed throughout the 3Arena, as we all awaited the drop of the curtain, which was appropriately emblazoned with the enigmatic emblem of the band’s latest release, Starcatcher. Without a moment's notice – In a bewildering whirlwind of fiery pyrotechnics, glittering outfits and wailing distortion, Greta Van Fleet launched into ‘Falling Sky,’ a cut from Starcatcher.
Strutting across the stage, microphone in hand, frontman Josh vaulted from one side to the other in a sequined haze, whilst the band – Jake Kiszka (electric guitar), Sam Kizska (bass/keys) and drummer Daniel Wagner – held up the fort with a superbly heavy, sonic barrage of howling guitar, muddy bass and thumping drums; flames pouring from the stage’s elaborately assembled design. Suffice to say, it was all very rock n’roll.
With an inexhaustible onstage presence that seemed to conjure the bombastic theatricality of Freddie Mercury and Prince, Josh is a worthy frontman for the ages; armed with unceasing reserves of energy, impressive crowd work and operatic, frankly preternatural vocal capabilities. Does he sound like Robert Plant? Maybe a little! But his voice is just characteristic enough, with a distinctly full falsetto and gritty texture that undoubtedly sets him apart from the rest.
“Smoke em if you got em!” Josh enthuses, as we all feel ourselves perhaps forming the start of a light tan from the billowing flames of the stage. “It is a rock and roll show tonight, so clothing is optional…”
Next up was ‘The Indigo Streak,’ a dramatic Yes-esque track steeped in bluesy riffs and careening drums, showcasing Josh’s impressive vocal range with a flashy whistle tone centrepiece.
“I’d ask you how you’re doing,” Josh started, cutting through the roaring crowd, “but I have a feeling I’ve got a pretty good idea!”
The band then ripped into an enthralling rendition of ‘Lover, Leaver (Taker, Believer),' a track from the band’s debut album Anthem of the Peaceful Army. Perhaps the most Zeppelin-esque song of the night, ‘Lover, Leaver’ wouldn’t sound amiss on a compilation of the band’s studio outtakes and B-sides. Raw and atmospheric, the song sounded suitably massive live, however, cascading down through the audience and filling every last corner of the arena; closing out with a blisteringly psychedelic extended guitar jam, one of the first of the night, which facilitated Josh’s many costume changes.
After an impressive solo nod to 'Norwegian Wood' by The Beatles, ‘Meeting The Master’ provided a welcome venture into more cinematic territory. A prog ballad complete with ritualistic, abstract lyricism and hazy folk-infused acoustic textures, the track was an undeniable standout of the set.
“Now I’m going to do one of those really self-indulgent songs,” Josh stated, “ so now is a really good time to absolutely lose your shit…” The indubitably catchy ‘Heat Above’ subsequently amped up the energy once again, with some explosive guitar work from brothers Jake and Sam.
“We’re celebrating tonight, I’d like to thank each and every human being for being here,” Josh said whilst the track closed. As is customary at every GVF gig, he then imparted a passionate sentiment of spiritual philosophy halfway through the set, exclaiming: “where there is love we will love on, where there is no love we will provide it.”
Reaching out into the audience, Josh then threw yellow roses to fans. Crowd-pleaser ‘Highway Tune’ repeated the trick of the latter, delivering upon the same high-octane energy and awe-inspiring instrumentation. Josh, disappearing once more into the jubilant sea of fans, tried on sunglasses and collected various pieces of paraphernalia handed to him by fans, before downing a shot to a burst of roaring applause. A captivating display of authentic rockstar spectacle to say the least…
Wagner was then alone onstage, left to tear into a masterful drum solo, keeping audiences captivated with awe-inspiring percussion chops alone – no easy feat. Josh and Jake graced the stage once more, rallying together for an impassioned cover of Alex North and Hy Zaret’s 1955 hit, ‘Unchained Melody.’ “Now we’re doing a bit of an intimate moment,” Josh announced, a hypnotic array of twinkling, star-like lights backlighting the band as they ran through a short but sweet acoustic set, consisting of the tender ‘Waited All Your Life’ and ‘Black Smoke Rising.’
Plugging in once again, GVF conducted the audience to a raucous fever pitch, charging into ‘Fate of the Faithful.’ With the smoke, the pageantry, the mysticism, the ornate outfits – it was all quite like attending some sort of rock n’ roll mass, as the rapturously exorcised crowd united in chorus.
In yet another outfit change (yes, really) Josh donned a bejewelled white cloak – if this was as I had deduced, a rock mass, then this must be our pope, leading us into ‘Sacred The Thread,’ a lyrical description of the clothing that the band dawns at their concerts; in all its glitter and grandeur. Bracingly raw and garagey, ‘The Archer’ saw the stage flooded with flames once again, Jake closing out the track by playing his guitar behind his back and recalling the escapades of the late Hendrix – all very macho.
Back for the final throes of the encore, GVF returned to the stage accompanied by a jazzy piano rendition of Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue,’ courtesy of Sam. Yet another crowd-pleaser, Light My Love seemed to receive one of the most emphatic responses of the night. Remarkably reminiscent of Elton John’s ‘I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues,’ the piano-driven power ballad saw Josh deliver an outstanding vocal performance, the band providing a needed edge to the poppier soundscape.
Looking out across the expanse of the audience, Josh levelled his parting statements: “We have one more song and it’s almost written for this moment, but let’s not get emotional, cause y’know, we’ll be back – Cheers!” Reaching the set’s conclusion, the band had found their fittingly fond farewell in Starcatcher’s closer ‘Farewell For Now,’ a melancholy-tinged, yet triumphant moment, accompanied by yet even more flames, sequins and fierce guitar. Call them self-indulgent, derivative even – but if one thing’s for certain, Greta Van Fleet is anything but boring.
Out cascaded the thrumming deluge of punters, satisfied in the exalted thought that maybe, just maybe, that old, time-wearied spirit of rock n’ roll wasn't quite worn out just yet…