Greta Van Fleet is selling something. A lot of critics aren’t buying it, but a lot of fans are. The band played the first of two back to back, near sold out shows at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta on Monday night. While the band has evoked strong reactions about their sound and live show from both critics and fans, Monday night was clearly a celebration for fans.
As the lights went down, David Ruffin’s “My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)” blared from the speakers. Lead singer Josh Kiszka lead the band out, throwing roses into the crowd; a peaceful assault from the March of the Peaceful Army. While the band took their places the entire crowd rose to their feet, and never sat back down.
Lead guitarist Jake Kiszka started the set with the opening riff to “Safari Song,” followed quickly by Josh’s powerful yell, as the crowd screamed back in excitement. Their musical delivery was flawless all night. Ho-hum songs “Black Smoke Rising” and “Lover, Leaver (Taker, Believer)” sounded much better live as the band took time to extend them. “Flower Power” and “You’re the One” allowed Josh to show off his pitch-perfect voice as the crowd sang back every word.
While the music impressed, their stage presence did not. Josh constantly held his palms upward into the sky like like Ricky Bobby, not knowing what to do with them. Jake awkwardly whispered backup vocals over his shoulder into Josh’s shared mic. Bassist Sam Kiszka and drummer Danny Wagner were spotlighted the least, but were the only two who looked comfortable in their own skin. The group had the look of an unsure teenager still trying to find themselves and figure out who they are.
The set was short at only 10 songs, which included an encore of “When the Curtain Falls” and their first hit, “Highway Tune.”
From the opening note it was obvious that Greta Van Fleet are wonderful musicians. There is a different setlist every night, so it’s clear that this isn’t a cookie cutter tour for the band. Josh’s voice is powerful, and he’s an undeniable talent. The music is strong and clean, but it comes off like someone retelling a story they weren’t actually there for, being nostalgic for something that happened to someone else.
The good news is that as their lives and careers unfold there will be time for their unquestionable talent to pair with their own genuine emotions and experiences. They are young. Let’s enjoy the sound and give them some time to grow into the rest.
Photos by Alexandra Scuffle for Bullet Music