It was one of the most diverse crowds, if not the single most diverse crowd, in the hundreds (no exaggeration) of rock shows I’ve attended that wandered into the Oakland Arena on August 8 to see and hear lightning rod quartet Greta Van Fleet in concert. There was a strong representation of teen girls and twenty-something women clearly in love with one or more of the three Kiszika brothers, although drummer Danny Wagner had his share of sign-bearing fans as well. But there was more. Far more.
Other than noting how sequins are making a fashion statement comeback, it was remarkable to see a noticeable presence of all ages and types. Boomers such as yours truly were out in force, drawn by the delight of hearing a band playing the mix of folk and heavy blues we sopped up in the 1970s. Even a few Deadheads were in attendance, arrayed in their tie-dyed splendor. Gen X and millennials were also present, drawn by either faint memories of listening to their parents’ or grandparents’ classic rock records or the desire to experience something nearly unheard of in this era of Taylor Swift and autotune plastic machine music — namely, actual music played by human beings.
Before getting into the review, a point. Does Greta Van Fleet have a robust Led Zeppelin influence? Unquestionably. Are they cheap clones? Absolutely not. The band does have its own identity. They are not merely the sum total of their influences. The Greta Van Fleet sound is heavy but accessible, something into which music fans who want to rock at least once in a while but are not much for metal can sink their teeth. As a general rule, each generation prefers members of its own making the music it consumes. Like them or not, Greta Van Fleet have carved themselves a tidy niche in today’s landscape deserving applause for keeping the rock‘n’roll flame alive for fans to whom Foo Fighters is classic rock made by old guys.
None of this matters if the band can’t pass muster, and on this night, Greta Van Fleet made good things happen in droves. Drawing heavily from their latest album, “Starcatcher,” the band’s two-hour-plus set was replete with highlights. Singer Josh Kiszika has impressive pipes that he used to the fullest, his stratospheric high notes delivered with a gruff punch. He engaged the crowd with light banter in between many of the songs, eschewing rock god poses for genuinely enjoying himself and appreciating the audience. His fraternal twin Jake on guitar was a bit more into the rock star presentation, with multiple lengthy and blistering solos marking him as a burgeoning guitar hero in a world sorely needing all the six-string gunslingers it can find. The third Kiszika brother, Sam, supplied solid bass and keyboard support for his brothers’ excursions. Wagner kept the rhythm flowing with percussive airiness.
The band’s visual presentation was pure classic arena rock, with flames and fireworks galore. A nod to modern times came around halfway through the show when the quartet left the main stage to play a brief acoustic set on a small stage at the back end of the floor.
So there you have it. An evening of quality music, well played and performed by four youngsters who are carrying on in the tradition of giants. Greta Van Fleet appeals to a lot of people who typically would not be found together in the same room period, let alone the same concert location. Is this not one of art’s purposes — bringing diverse people together? In this, Greta Van Fleet succeeds admirably by being a really, really good rock‘n’roll band. More power to them.