Greta Van Fleet: Portland Gig Review

The “Glorious Sons,” a Canadian rock band were playing when we arrived at the Hawthorne theater, in Portland, Oregon on a Monday night, October 23, 2017. The hard driving rock and roll sextet hammered the audience with their brand of youthful exuberance that left the sold out crowd fully primed for the main act. They ended their set with a, bring down the house version of the “Rolling Stones” “Gimme Shelter.”

“I tell you love, sister, it’s just a kiss away
It’s just a kiss away.”

After a short break to replace band equipment, “Greta Van Fleet” took the stage and opened the show to a screaming audience with “Talk On The Street,” a lively rocker, at a few minutes after 10:00 P.M.. “Greta Van Fleet” is a social media phenomenon that exploded into reality as band members graduated from high school, freeing them up to tour. Since last June the band has performed in Great Britain and to sold out shows across the USA. Black Smoke Rising is their first EP and contains four songs. They have a record deal and are in the middle of recording a full length CD album in between touring dates. At the same time another four song EP will be released prior to the full album, next year. Tonight they were playing to a packed out house that was made up of a mixed crowd that ranged in age from a couple of ten year olds in the under 21 section to forty and fifty year olds. A couple of middle aged fans sitting in the balcony said that they were visiting from San Francisco and were huge fans of the band. D. Weller said that he was “rocking it to the hilt” and then proceeded to stomp the beat with a friend hard enough to vibrate the floor for most of the show. As soon as the band began playing “Black Smoke Rising,” the title song off their four song EP the crowd responded with immediate recognition and even sang the chorus.

“And the black smoke rises
From the fires we’re told.”

Josh Kiszka began to stretch his vocal chords by matching them with his brother Jake’s searing guitar licks. When the band dove into “Edge of Darkness,” drummer Danny Wagner was hammering his kit as hard as D. Weller was stomping on the floor. It was the first time that Jake launched into an extended solo and cut loose on his Gibson Les Paul, where he demonstrated his chops, as he played raging guitar behind his head. “When the Cold Wind Blows” gave Josh a chance to demonstrate his Robert Plant persona with a “Led Zeppelin” influenced composition. The interplay between Sam on bass and Jake on lead was very symbiotic with Danny Wagner’s drums creating the foundational beat that the vocals soared from as they alternated with Jake’s guitar.

Greta Van Fleet performs at the Hawthorne Theatre in Portland, Oregon.

Sam Kinszka removed his bass guitar and sat down at the Hammond electric organ that was on the left side of the stage as he began “Flower Power,” the second song off their EP, then the guitar kicked in and drove the beat, as Josh’s voice soared and dove, as he spat out.

“She is a lady comes from all around…”
“Ma ma ma ma ma ma ma ma.”

The band rocked the house as Josh’s voice continued to soar, while the organ took over to conclude to the crowds screaming approval. It’s hard to overstate the crowd’s enthusiasm for “Greta Van Fleet,” since they originate from a small town 2400 miles across the country, with only a four song EP containing their recordings. The familiarity and love expressed was impressive to say the least. When the band began “You’re the One” Jake traded his electric for an acoustic guitar and brother Sam stayed on the organ and Josh let his vocals soar while at the same time Jake leaned back into the microphone singing into it with his brother.

“You’re the one I want,
You’re the one I need,
“Hey, hey, hey ya.”

After kicking ass with a take no prisoner’s assault on the song Jake took back his Gibson and Sam his bass as the band dove into Howlin’ Wolf’s “Evil.” Wagner’s drumming shinned, as Sam kicked back and forth while thumping a driving beat on his bass, reminiscent of Led Zeppelin. Jake’s shredding hot guitar licks alternated with Josh’s soaring vocals while he was strutting center stage.

Josh announced that the next song was called ”Mountain of the Sun,” as driving power chords and soaring vocals that nearly became a yodel took over. The driving rhythm continued to push the crowd’s adrenaline button as they bobbed to the beat packed shoulder to shoulder on the standing room only main floor. “Watching Over” was a soaring psychedelic jam that began slowly and then escalated into an explosion of sound that they could have jammed on for 10 minutes. The last song of the nearly hour long set was “Lover Leaver.” It was one of those songs that allowed the band to once again spread its wings and soar as the power trio of guitar, bass and drums grooved as they played off each other to the delight of the crowd. When the song erupted into a climax the band left the stage to a screaming throng, until they were brought back for an encore.

The encore was comprised of the two last songs on the Black Smoke Rising EP. “Highway Tune,” their debut single drew a huge response of recognition, including the audience singing back as Josh Kiszka’s voice soared to its limits with graceful familiarity as the crowd responded with adulation and screams. Six million “Spotify” plays created a nationwide audience that continues to grow by word of mouth from newly converted first hand witnesses. The last song of the night was “Safari Song,” another familiar tune that the crowd sang back to the band.

“Oh Mama what you gonna do”

Josh Kinszka’s voice was fully primed by this time and his range was fully exercised, until Danny Wagner broke into a minute long drum solo to conclude the song and the show.

Review by Bob Gersztyn

Bob Gersztyn

Bob Gersztyn began attending concerts and musical performances as a teenager in Detroit, Michigan, when Motown was beginning and the by the end of the 1960’s he was attending multiple shows every week of everyone from Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels to the Four Tops, along with Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, and hundreds of other artists. In 1971 Bob’s musical direction changed and he became involved in promoting gospel rock music, also known as Jesus rock and witnessed and photographed hundreds of performances by everyone from Andrae` Crouch and the Disciples to Larry Norman. In the 1990’s Bob began to cover concerts for music magazines like “Duprees Diamond News,” “Guitar Player” and LIVE. By the 21st century Bob was writing, interviewing and photographing everyone from performers and producers to other photographers and painters. He has published 2 books and lives in Salem, Oregon with his wife of 46 years and teaches photography at the local community college part time. He has 7 children and 6 grandchildren.

One thought on “Greta Van Fleet: Portland Gig Review

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Bulk Email Sender