Greta Van Fleet starts off tour with a blast in Kalamazoo


Credit: Hollis Masterson

Performing live at the Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo, Greta Van Fleet started their worldwide tour in their home state of Michigan on March 10th, 2022. Greta Van Fleet was formed in Frankenmuth, Michigan in 2012 and is made up of the Kiszka brothers: Josh (vocals), Sam (bass, pianist), and Jake (guitarist), with Danny Wagner on drums.

Hollis Masterson, Staff Writer

As I looked through the packed Wings Event Center, I saw so many excited fans of all ages there to see Greta Van Fleet perform on their first tour since 2019. It didn’t matter that the parking traffic held up many for an hour, or that it was incredibly cold and packed in the arena, what mattered was that this is my favorite current rock and roll band that was about to appear on stage. 

As the lights went out, the curtains that covered the stage began to shake as the crowd chanted “Greta! Greta!” over and over in delighted anticipation. A rumbling was heard as the vocalist, Josh Kiszka, began singing “Heat Above” through the darkness of the arena that silenced the audience. As Kiszka’s lilting voice continued, drummer Danny Wagner began a slow tapping that built up in intensity. 

Then, wham! The curtain fell, fire sprung up, and the band appeared illuminated by the oddly-shaped light stands and pyrotechnics that bordered the back of the stage. The audience screamed as GVF carried on with “Heat Above” off their “The Battle At Garden’s Gate” album. 

Greta Van Fleet is a classic rock-style band from Frankenmuth, Michigan. Formed in 2012, Greta Van Fleet takes its name from one of the residents of Frakenmuth who gave permission for the band to use the name. The band is made up of three brothers: Josh Kiszka as vocalist, Jake Kiszka as guitarist, and Sam Kiszka as bassist/pianist. They are also joined by friend, Danny Wagner, on drums.

Greta Van Fleet has been compared to the rock and roll sound of the 70’s, but more specifically the British band Led Zeppelin. Josh Kiszka has a high-pitched voice similar to Led Zeppelin’s lead singer, Robert Plant, as well as a bluesy guitar tone that fits Led Zeppelin’s style. 

There’s a lot of similarities between the vibe of their music and the vocal range between Josh Kiszka and Robert Plant are both insane. Also the long hair seems to be a trend in both the bands,”

— Georgia Hill

“There’s a lot of similarities between the vibe of their music and the vocal range between Josh Kiszka and Robert Plant are both insane. Also the long hair seems to be a trend in both the bands,” said Senior Georgia Hill on the similarity of Led Zeppelin and Greta Van Fleet.

In an interview with Loudwire, Robert Plant stated that he believed Greta Van Fleet sounded a lot like Zeppelin’s first album: “Led Zeppelin I.” When asked about Josh Kiszka’s singing, Plant stated, “Yeah, and he borrowed it from someone I know very well!”

Despite criticisms, Greta Van Fleet has received many accolades, including the Grammy Award for Best Rock Album in 2019 for their debut album “From the Fires.” They have also had several singles and albums reach peak positions, the highest being “You’re The One” from “Anthem of the Peaceful Army,” reaching number 13 on the U.S. Billboard Charts.

However, after releasing their next album, “Anthem of the Peaceful Army,” the COVID-19 pandemic struck, leaving Greta Van Fleet in the studio to work on their next album and no way to promote it live due to safety precautions.

Greta Van Fleet waited nearly a year before going on tour to promote its release. The first show was performed on March 10, 2021 in Kalamazoo and had opening acts from fellow rockers Velveteers and Rival Sons, which were both well received by the crowd.

Overall, the concert packed lots of surprises. For a band that uses stripped down concert sets, this set was quite the contrary. Using pyrotechnic goblets that spewed flames at least 10 to 15 feet high, as well as strobe and multicolor lights to fit the mood, Greta Van Fleet definitely achieved the big band energy.

The audience was made up of mostly college students in 60’s regalia and some older folks hoping to relive the Led Zeppelin glory days they may have missed. However, most appeared to enjoy the show, singing along and taking photos and videos.

The majority of the setlist was composed of songs from “The Battle At Garden’s Gate,” which makes sense because the goal of the tour was to promote the album. They also played some of their hits from different albums like “Highway Tune” and “Safari Song,” which received roars from the crowds as soon as the first few notes were hit.

The overall sound of the show was very spotty. Even in the opening song “Heat Above,” singer Josh Kiszka’s mic went out and it took the crowd’s effort to fill in the lyrics as white-dressed technicians buzzed about on stage attempting to fix it. About three-quarters of the way through, the mic was replaced and the song carried on. 

The singing and bass playing throughout the concert were eclipsed many times by the guitar and drums, possibly due to the arena setting, being indoors and circular instead of like a theater where the sound travels outward to the audience and not around in odd directions. 

Another thing that stood out to me was the bassist and pianist, Sam Kiszka’s lack of time at the forefront. Understandably, bassists usually stick to the background, but it appeared to me that he had a lot of free time on hand to drink and watch his bandmates. 

The band also would be wise to work on their solos. A drum solo of 5 minutes as well as a single guitar solo of 10 minutes are incredibly short in the rock world. Usually rock solos stretch from 15-20 minutes to give other bandmates a quick rest. I think in Greta Van Fleet’s case, with more practice and stage confidence, they will be able to do longer solos.

The band has a lot of things to work out concerning airtime and sound design, but they are a tight unit and should be able to iron out these problems during the tour.

After Greta Van Fleet’s show in Saginaw on the 16th, Jake and Josh Kiszka fell ill and had to postpone two shows, which were followed up with the postponement of the rest of their first leg of the tour when it was discovered that Jake was battling a case of pneumonia according to Guitar World. The concerts will be rescheduled and tickets refunded if necessary.