It was a chilly night in Anaheim; brisk by any standard of measurement for Southern California. As I arrived at the Honda Center, a jealous sun was just giving way to an intrepid moon. It was finally time for the long-awaited return of Frankenmuth, Michigan’s new favorite sons, Greta Van Fleet.
The night featured two great bands: GVF and Long Beach natives, Rival Sons. What seemed to be the anthem for the night were the legions of fans these bands attracted. One would think it was a crowd that showed up to see Rob Zombie’s Freaks on Parade tour, but the calendar was off for that. Everywhere you looked, the sold-out crowd congregating resembled the dichotomy that is Southern California. Of course, there were the OC yuppies and surfers galore; they met up with Partridge Family and Zeppelin disciples (where bell bottom jeans and boas were the attire for the night). To the casual observer, there were a lot of fashion “don’ts” that seem to be in style once again, if not just for this night.
As the crowd slowly filled the Honda Center floor, there was a buzz in the air. Concertgoers of all ages and nationalities were abound and they were about to get treat with Rival Sons. Formed in 2009, Rival Songs is from Long Beach, so this was a kind of homecoming. Before all the seats were filled, Rival Sons came out with a burst of energy and an in your face sound and attitude.
I was pleasantly surprised about just how talented these showmen were. If you wanted to do a movie on a great bluesy-rock band, these guys checked all boxes; they look like what you expect a band to look like. Drummer Mike Miley totally fits the kick-ass drummer style, while bassist Dave Beste and guitarist Scott Holiday looked perfectly at home onstage in front of a sold-out house. On keys was Todd Ögren; that dude looks like he just came from playing with The Black Keys and Cypress Hill – what a performer! The pied piper for this band of local sonic heroes is Jay Buchanan.
Buchanon is as cool a cat as you may ever see take the stage. With his Dave Gahan-like shirtless suit, to his Bowie-like onstage demeanor, to the sheer raw sound he puts out, the band is collectively infectious. Immediately, the crowed was drawn to “Do Your Best,” “Nobody Wants to Die,” and “Rapture.” The only downside to their performance was because they were an opener, it was an abbreviated set.
Although, the crowd was very entertained by their catalogue that was on display: “Where I’ve Been,” “Too Bad,” “Shooting Stars,” and the closer “Secret.” No matter what stage they are playing, Rival Sons bring an infectious groove which a draw no matter what genre of music anyone is into. Just like that, the band waved goodbye to the fans at Honda Center.
After a short break to get the stage ready for GVF, the band’s monologue took over and before you knew it, the lights behind the canopy lit up the stage outlining a silhouette of the band. Fans immediately cheered and were calling out their names.
“Jake! Jake! Jake!” was heard by all near the stage as a shout out to guitarist Jake Kiszka, while other screams followed for Sam Kiszka on bass, and Danny Wagner on drums. As soon as lead singer Josh Kiszka took his mark behind the mic, the crowd lost its mind and the mayhem began.
GVF came out strong with “Built by Nations.” Their sound was simply electric and Kiska’s vocals were insanely good. I was sitting side stage, maybe five rows back (Thank you GVF publicist), so I got a good look at the band, the fans, and how they engaged with each other. The pyrotechnics on stage were top notch.
It was hard to tell who was more into the show – the band or the crowd. They were both equally energized to be with each other, that’s how amplified this show was. What stood out to me throughout the night was the crowd say-a-long and mimicked Kiska singing every word to each song played, while acknowledging each other through the show. I did not think it could get louder, but it did when GVF went into their debut album for “Black Smoke Rising” followed by “Safari Song.” Both radio hits that captivated the hearts and souls of the Anaheim faithful.
Then the band took a moment so-to-speak to catch their breath as drummer Danny Wagoner took over. The solo was all over the place, and I say that in the most favorable of terms as it started slower, the pace picked up and then went into an insane frenzy. Each tempo was different, and you could hear influence, Bun E. Carlos, Lars Ulrich, and Tommy Lee would have given it a thumbs up I am sure.
Shortly after the solo started, lead singer Josh Kiska wiggled his way down to the floor. Jumping on the back of a security guard, he was paraded back and forth high fiving just about everyone in the crowd…. I think it was a security guard, I am pretty sure…. I hope it was.
Anyway, Kiska was handed white roses by band roadies, and he handed and tossed them about while the drum solo slowly came to an end. He then went back on stage and like a scene out of a “Star is Born” (the Kris Kristofferson version), Kiska segued into “Caravel” and the crowd erupted as his magnetic energy and unreal deliver of vocals would have impressed Robert Plant!
It was evident by everyone and anyone who knows a great sound that these bandmates have been at it a while. As they may be young by most standards, because they are brothers, they have been together since birth, and you could tell by the synchronized harmonies and bone-crushing guitar licks that Jake and Sam were throwing down. The crowd did not lose sight of how powerful a performance they were witnessing as the guys played crowd-favorite after crowd-favorite songs: “Heat Above,” “Light My Love,” “Age of Machines,” “The Weight of Dreams,” and “Meeting the Master.” The last song was a treat for the Anaheim crowd as it was a live debut of an unreleased song.
And just like that, the show came to an end. GVF exited the stage to cheers that mimicked a Boeing 747 landing at John Wayne; it was that loud. As true showmen do, the band re-emerged to the cartoon crazy sights and sounds of enthusiastic followers. The guys did not disappoint. They went into “Age of Man,” then “That’s All Right.” Before the night was officially over, they closed with their uber-hit, “Highway Tune.”
For their fans, and those seeing them for the first time, it was the perfect ending to a perfect night of music at Honda Center.