Greta Van Fleet melts faces at DC show

The band proves that real rock music is alive and well

“They must be really inspired by Rush,” my concert cohort leaned over and yelled into my ear, surprisingly just as I was thinking to myself the analogs for Greta Van Fleet.

Rush was not one I had thought of as GVR took the stage at Capital One Arena on Monday (Sept 11th). The likes of AC/DC, Queen, Guns N Roses, and of course, Led Zeppelin, had come to mind. Of course, it feels reductive to make such comparisons when a band like Greta Van Fleet is clearly leaving their own stamp on the genre.

But I think the comparisons happen because it’s so refreshing to have a style of music return. So often, when we think of Millennial rock music, we think of track-heavy pop stars. Not a foursome with a retro sound we never imagined would be the musical sandbox of bands anew.

It’s hard not to hear Brian Johnson in Josh Kiszka’s nasal delivery, or Axl Rose, or even, yes, Geddy Lee in his unapologetic higher-than-the-rafters soprano. But Josh is his own vocalist at the same time.

The Kiszka brothers — Josh, guitarist Jake, and bassist and keyboardist Sam — are backed by drummer Danny Wagner. Jake is as talented a shredder as any superstar player. Sam is skilled at laying the foundation for the three others to go nuts, as his keys and bass are often the secret ingredient.

As a unit, GVR is tight and eager to rock. They make no apologies for creating a vibe where true rock music is right at home. Even the staging calls back to the late 70s and 80s, with a healthy dose of pyro but not much else in the way of spectacle. There are even amps on stage like their predecessors used to have. They are triangular and emblazoned with the insignia for Starcatcher, the album this tour is named after.

“Meeting the Master” was the first stripped-down moment of the night, with Jake and Josh stationed on either side of the stage, Josh in a blue jumpsuit and Jake strumming an acoustic guitar. It built until Josh was belting in the highest range of his voice, creating an urgency that swept the whole arena.

“Highway Tune” is the song that Josh called “my favorite in our catalog.” It led to a masterful drum solo by Wagner. He dropped a stick and grabbed another without losing a beat.

Josh Kiszka’s voice was at its rawest and most crystalline during an acoustic B-stage set. With Danny Wagner now on bass and Jake now on keys, “Waited All Your Life” had the crowd in the palm of GVR’s hand with the same intensity they had the crowd head-banging moments earlier.

I could go on raving about this night. I could extoll that Josh’s voice is a once-in-a-generation gem and that the group is a band that only comes around once every few decades. But the common denominator Greta Van Fleet and all those bands of yesteryear I opened by comparing them to? Real. Fucking. Rock. Music.

Matt Bailey
Matt Bailey

Matt Bailey is podcast producer and writer located in the Northeast. Since 2013, Bailey has produced more than 160 episodes of his own online radio show, Talk For Two. In 2016 alone, he interviewed Kevin Bacon, Crystal Gayle, Bob Barker, and Gilbert Gottfried, among several other stars. As a Correspondent for The Music Universe, his focus is Broadway, country music and concert reviews.