Concert review

Greta Van Fleet earns comparisons to rock legends at Rams Head Live

For The Baltimore Sun

Sold-out shows on Greta Van Fleet’s current tour have become commonplace, and Wednesday’s Rams Head Live show in Baltimore was no different.

Not bad for a band of three brothers and a childhood friend in which the oldest are 22-years-old. Two members have yet to turn 20.

The Michigan quartet have had remarkable early success, including two chart-topping rock singles (“Safari Song” and “Highway Tune”), a feature in Rolling Stone and prominent sets in summer festivals across the world.

From M&M-nibbling teens and would-be Coachella-goers to Baby Boomers happy to support familiar-sounding live music, the crowd lined up more than an hour before doors opened.

While fans were of all ages, the band’s sound is purely post-Woodstock. It’s not enough to label this band a “throwback” or “roots rock.” GVF’s modus operandi is pure blues-meets-teen-adrenaline of the ’70s, a decade they embrace both in sound and look. On Wednesday, singer Joshua Kiszka wore a red, gold-embroidered tunic while brother Jacob Kiszka sported an open, black and brown tasseled shirt.

Joshua Kiszka’s falsetto, a dead ringer for vintage Robert Plant, is the most cited reason for comparing Greta to Led Zeppelin. Plant has shied away from the ceaseless calls for one last Led Zeppelin reunion, opting instead to vary his creative output with a folksy ensemble.

Kiszka is out-Planting Plant. It’s impossible to listen to Greta without hearing Led Zeppelin. There are the vocal flourishes as well as riffs and a general sonic similarity that make it easy to hear bits of Zeppelin’s “Hey, Hey, What Can I Do?” during “Flower Power” or “Dancing Days” in “Highway Tune.”

It’s also fair to compare GVF’s sound to other artists of their favorite decade, like Heart or Aerosmith, before they brought in balled-favoring professional song writers. The frontman also recalls a vintage Freddie Mercury, punctuating and conducting the band with exacting hand gestures.

None of these comparisons are digs. For a band this young to create a live sound akin to some of the most enduring artists roughly 50 years their senior is no small feat.

To highlight their blues roots (and credibility), GVF performed electric blues covers of Howlin’ Wolf and Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup songs. The argument, as it goes, is that their sound doesn’t come from studying Led Zeppelin; it comes from studying the same blues artists ’70s bands studied, borrowed from or pillaged.

The covers showcased the band’s bona fides, and it’s exciting to consider the directions in which a band so young with so much talent can progress as they evolve. So far, GVF have found success by adhering to genre standards of the ’70s that are clearly still finding large audiences today, though most classic-rock torchbearers have passed or vacated their roles.

Wednesday’s set in Baltimore proved GVF eschews direct comparisons to their direct musical forefathers for a reason. Some day, perhaps soon, these blues and classic rock disciples will push the genre toward something brand new.

Setlist

Highway Tune

Edge of Darkness

When the Cold Wind Blows

Talk on the Street

Flower Power

You're the One

Evil (Howlin’ Wolf cover)

Mountain of the Sun

Watching Over

Lover Leaver Taker Believer

That's All Right (Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup cover)

Black Smoke Rising

Safari Song

Jay Trucker teaches English at the Community College of Baltimore County. He has written rock concert reviews for The Baltimore Sun since 2010.

wesley.case@baltsun.com

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