The Top Four Reasons You Should RUN To See Greta Van Fleet Live
"Camera Lights & Action" ... at The Stone Pony Summer Stage
By Diane DiMemmo
May 18, 2019
During a recent interview at Coachella, Greta Van Fleet drummer – Danny Wagner – said, “Rock and roll is more than a genre. It’s a way of life.” That statement was proven with 100% certainty at the Stone Pony Summer Stage on Saturday, May 18th in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Members of the GVF Army (with flowers in their hair and peace in their hearts) lined 1st Avenue and Ocean as early as 4:30am that morning for the chance to ride the rail and be close to these young idols who have brought genuine classic rock back to life for all of us.
The show began just as the sun set behind the outdoor stage of my absolute favorite venue. There is no place like the “legendary Stone Pony,” however the summer stage experience takes it to another level when you are outside smelling the salty ocean air while listening to electrifying rock and roll. Tickets sold out well before the concert date and the packed crowd consisted of children, young adults, and my “seasoned generation” of compadres. Families were part of the equation too. Tom Nagy was there at 7am with his wife Kim, and sons Brandt (age 13) and Cole (age 10) who were there to see their very first Greta concert. Brandt said, “It was really fun and cool to see the band that close and watch them play their instruments.” Cole added, “I liked singing along to all the songs ... they are my favorite band and I want to learn the guitar!” Mother and daughter “tag team” Linda and Natalie Cribbin were there soaking up the rock vibe as well. They are regulars at the NJ concert scene and lovers of everything rock and roll!
Now, I’m assuming that if you’re reading this article … you know who Greta Van Fleet is. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a few facts about these amazing musicians for those who are unfamiliar. Frankenmuth, Michigan brothers Josh, Jake, and Sam Kiszka formed Greta Van Fleet with friend Danny Wagner in 2012. Throughout their very short tenure as a band, they have earned the 2019 Grammy for Best Rock Album, with two additional nominations for Best New Artist and Best Rock Performance. They’ve achieved three consecutive No. 1 singles on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart and successfully grasped the number one spot atop the Billboard Top Album Sales charts in just the first week after the release of their current album Anthem of a Peaceful Army (Republic Records, October 2018). They’ve won the Best New Artist Loudwire Music Award and won the 2019 Rock Song of the Year for "Safari Song" from the iHeart Radio Music Awards. And their Spotify account shows close to 2.5 million monthly listeners. Not too shabby.
Why has this band achieved such a high level of acclaim in such a relatively short amount of time? Well, they have successfully captured the spirit and essence of classic 70’s rock and put their unique stamp on it. Their sound is a true throwback to classic rock and roll at its best, and an introduction to real rock music for a younger generation. In addition to their exceptional musicality, they have made a fan connection based upon the premise of peace, love, and unity … a message and perspective that is needed today, more than ever. And if those weren’t enough reasons to adore them, they are unapologetically themselves with everything they do. They don’t make excuses, give in to pressure, pay attention to annoying comparisons, or try to make music according to other agendas. All four of them seem to have a natural connection to the music within themselves and an ease with accessing it. They creatively collaborate with each other to bring a new, unfiltered, pure rock and roll sound to life. And they make it seem effortless. Rock and roll music just oozes out of them, as if they can’t help it. Which leads me right into the TOP FOUR REASONS you should RUN to see this band perform live.
REASON #1 - JOSH KISZKA (LEAD VOCALS)
Let me start by saying … enough with the freakin’ Robert Plant/Led Zeppelin comparisons!!! If that’s the best critique someone can come up with about Josh’s voice … it’s a lazy observation, at best. No matter what he does, he cannot change his physiology (vocal tract, larynx, nasal passages, diaphragm, etc.), so if he sounds somewhat similar to a legend … all the more power to him! How many times have we all had difficulty naming a band on the radio because the voice sounded like many singers we know?
Josh commandeered the Stone Pony Summer Stage with all of the qualities that define a true vocalist: power, range, dynamics, strength, lung capacity, phrasing, and tone. His range is beyond compare and he has the ability to produce and hold his high registers when performing live, which is a VERY hard thing to do. When the band performed “Lover, Leaver (Taker, Believer)” that night, Josh nailed the ending which is something you’d think he’d only be able to do in studio with software enhancement. Nope. He does it all live. Listen to the song here to see what I mean about his upper vocal register.
Josh also has a wonderful stage presence. He strikes iconic poses while singing, tells his brothers to rip into their guitar & bass solos, gifts the audience with roses, and literally becomes that superstar he was meant to be right in front of your eyes on stage. Performing seems to be a natural extension of his personality. Nothing seems rehearsed; the music just flows out of him and his constant smiles prove that he absolutely loves what he’s doing.
REASON #2 - SAM KISZKA (BASS, KEYBOARDS)
Unless you’re a musician, most fans will focus on lyrics, lead guitar solos, or drums when listening to a song. But it’s impossible to miss the contribution Sam brings to the band on bass. He plays such artistic runs and patterns that both compliment and push the music forward. Working his favorite seafoam-green P-Bass (with jazz neck), he takes you in unexpected directions that are very pleasing to the ear.
In a 2018 interview with Bass Player, Sam said that what appeals to him is taking the bass and turning it into more of a lead instrument to make the lines more interesting. Now, that’s innovation! He definitely lays it down in their recordings, but Sam lets it fly when performing live. He improvises and pushes his bass to the limits making it exciting to listen to. His speed and artistry keep fans locked into him during a performance Watch the video below of the first song of their set that night - “When The Curtain Falls” (one of the best songs by ANY band, in my opinion). You will see and hear how Sam improvises and enhances the band’s overall sound with his musicianship. (At minute 1:09, you’ll also hear the crowd go wild for one of his runs.)
Video: Courtesy of Alex Neff
REASON #3 - JAKE KISZKA (LEAD GUITAR)
Jake is a guitar player’s guitar player. Everyone just has to respect his chops. The maturity and quality of his guitar solos really remind me of Joe Walsh’s progressive playing: the pauses, the phrasing, and how he relaxes into the music. Jake shined during every song of the set that night, delivering scorching-hot solo lines and jams (with Sam) that you could listen to for hours.
I loved how he moved to his playing, making it seem as if he and his instrument were one in the same. Jake even does this cool skip-hop movement while playing which shows how much the music (literally and figuratively) moves him. Being on stage seems so natural to him that it’s as if he is channeling the music from a higher power. Watch Jake in the video below of "Black Smoke Rising" that night to see him in action.
Video: Courtesy of Alex Neff
REASON #4 - DANNY WAGNER (PERCUSSION)
It takes a special kind of talent to present the right balance of drumming techniques to back up the exceptional Kiszka trio … but that’s exactly what Danny does. He is a unique percussionist and well-rounded musician in that he also plays the guitar, piano, mandolin, bass, and French horn. To illustrate the sophistication of his musical acumen, he was quoted in an interview stating, “[Since I play a variety of instruments] I can better identify with the essence, feeling, or direction of a song, and I can relate to the other instruments that drive the song. The drums don’t always make the song, but they could easily ruin one.” It’s a brilliant statement and describes just why he is the perfect drummer for this band.
Danny played artfully and masterfully on the Summer Stage for his East coast fans. He’s said in the past that he really had to work on his precision, but I heard nothing but perfection in his drumming that night. He played like a freight train during "Highway Tune" and "When The Curtain Falls," and then easily switched gears to play delicately during "Flower Power." I also heard jazzy, soulful elements in "Lover, Leaver." Danny was given the spotlight during the "Safari Song" encore and played solo for several minutes wowing the crowd with his speed and style.
Seeing a Greta Van Fleet live performance is a must for any music lover, no matter what genre they prefer. These young musicians innovate and experiment right on stage making every concert different and new. They create on their own terms according to the music living within them and shouldn’t change a thing about their process. As long as they stay true to themselves, there is nothing Josh, Jake, Sam & Danny cannot accomplish in the future and I can’t wait to see what comes next!
When The Curtain Falls/Black Smoke Rising/Highway Tune/Flower Power (followed by “Watch Me” outro)/You’re The One (preceded by “The Music Is You” intro)/Age of Man/Black Flag Exposition/Watching Over/Lover, Leaver (Taker, Believer)-(with “Brave New World” interlude)
Encore: Safari Song ( featuring Danny’s Drum Solo)
GRETA VAN FLEET PHOTO GALLERY
Openers Ida Mae treated the New Jersey crowd to gorgeous melodies and old-time acoustic country blues. Husband and wife - Chris Turpin and Stephanie Jean - blended the rich sound of the resonator guitar with beautifully harmonized vocals to produce a heavenly sound. Their debut album Chasing Lights comes out June 7th and has garnered a lot of attention already. In addition to touring with Greta Van Fleet, Ida Mae has also opened for Blackberry Smoke, Marcus King, and The Lone Bellow.
IDA MAE PHOTO GALLERY
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