It’s been five months since fans were told the Greta Van Fleet concert in Raleigh, NC had been postponed due to Josh Kiszka’s ruptured eardrum, but last week, thousands of fans congregated inside the PNC Arena in anxious anticipation for GVF to take the stage.
As an added bonus, special guests included Robert Finley and Houndmouth. The show started right on time with Finley being the first to take the stage.
Finley said he only had “25 minutes to shock you, rock you, and roll you for the rest of your life.” Right before he belted out the soulful lyrics to “Sharecropper’s Son,” he predicted it would be a night we’d never forget (and he couldn’t have been more right).
Throughout his set, which included “Medicine Woman” and “Souled Out on You,” Finley kept telling the audience how much he loved us.
In between songs, he took time to give out prudent life advice. At nearly 70 years old, he’s bound to know a thing or two, so before singing “Get It While You Can,” he reminded us that life is too short to put off tomorrow what you can do today. Not only is he wise, but the man can shimmy up and down and move those hips, enticing both screams and smiles from the crowd. I can tell you that his voice is strong, unwavering, and rich. He loves to perform and he loves telling his story through his songs. All great things must come to an end at some point, and Finley had to leave the stage to make way for Houndmouth.
I first saw Houndmouth, the four-piece band from Indiana, when they played in Des Moines, Iowa last year and they’ve been part of my playlist ever since. I was super stoked to get to watch them perform live again. There’s just something about their persona and music that puts a big smile on my face. I’m instantly in a better mood after listening to them, but then again, that is one of the main purposes of music – to make a person feel certain emotions – and Houndmouth knows how to make music speak for them. Houndmouth may have a small-town garage band feel to them, but they are anything but that.
Seeming without a care in the world, Houndmouth slowly walked on to the stage while the crowd was screaming their heads off. Matt Myers and Zak Appleby took their time getting their guitars ready, Shane Cody took a moment before settling into his seat at the drums, and Caleb Hickman fidgeted with his keyboard. Then, after a quick burst of notes to ensure they had sound, they jumped into their first song of the set, “Las Vegas.” The chemistry between the band members is evident onstage and their smiles are contagious.
Before playing “Make It to Midnight,” Houndmouth said they felt like “a hundred dollars” and told everyone this was their last show on the Greta Van Fleet tour and proceeded to thank everyone for the lovely experience. Up next was a beautiful version of “Palmyra” followed by “McKenzie.” Right before “Honey Slider,” the tour manager walked onto the stage with red Solo cups for each member, and in a toast amongst friends, they all downed the liquid. Between the last two songs of the set, “Darlin’” and “Sedona,” you could hear fans shouting to “Smash the guitar! Smash the guitar!” No smashing occurred; Myers simply put his hands in the shape of a heart and left the stage after the set was over saying, “Peace and love.”
As with other GVF concerts in this tour, the big black curtain with the symbols from their newest album, “The Battle at Garden’s Gate,” was once again draped and clipped tightly around the stage so no peeking into the behind-the-scenes stage setup could occur. This dramatic scene always gets the crowd revved up in anticipation. Soon, though it did seem like an eternity when you’re waiting in utter anticipation, the lights dimmed, the opening monologue started as strobe lights illuminated the band’s silhouettes. “…I’ve asked in moments full of doubt ah and this is what I’m told…that living is in itself a constant celebration of love and whether it’s love we will live on and whether it’s not love we must provide it…”
The monologue ended, red light shone from behind the curtain just before it fell, and Josh Kiszka started singing “Built by Nations.” The crowd erupted in screams, but you could barely hear them over Josh Kiszka’s voice and the wailing of Jake and Sam Kiszka’s guitars. Danny Wagner was on a higher platform in the middle of the stage pounding on the drums. Halfway through this song, fire erupted from all corners of the stage and heat radiated throughout the venue. The pleasure of pyrotechnics continued through the night, with bursts of shots flaring from cannons here and there and fog rolling off the stage floor, creeping up and around the band.
I was on the side of the stage where Jake performs so I got to see him up close as he climbed up on the side platform to show off his guitar skills and perform little solos during the songs. Josh wore a white sequined jumpsuit with a gold dragon going down side and one dragon going up the other. Barefoot, of course. Sam was also in all white, though he wore a suit.
He started the show with shoes on but quickly discarded them. Jake, was the yang to Josh’s yin, wearing a black jacket with slacks adorned in similar golden dragons. They are twins after all.
Josh always takes time between some of the songs to explain the intent of piece or to bring encouragement to their fans. He speaks about the importance of recognizing emotions and events but to discard the negativity and free yourself from any anxiety.
After “Safari Song” played, Wagner went into his epic and impressively long drum solo where he really gets to show off his skills. Wagner is a beast on the drums!
During his moment in the spotlight, his bandmates took a small break while Josh passed out white flowers to those in the front of the stage. (There were many fan interactions with the band during the show and Jake and Sam always go to the edges of the stage to get closer to the audience.) Josh said, “Whew… I’m on a voyage now, I wanna go on a trip” as they started playing “Caravel.” The songs “Heat Above” and “Light My Love” were next.
“Broken Bells” rang through the venue as Josh sang the meaningful lyrics. This song is definitely a crowd pleaser with its unique guitar chords imbedded throughout and the raging guitar solo. “Age of Machine and “The Weight of Dreams” ended the set.
Josh threw his tambourine way out into the crowd while Wagner tossed his drumsticks. The crowd was not ready to go home. Greta Van Fleet left the stage, while workers began to take apart some cables. The crowd screamed and hollered for Greta Van Fleet to come back out for an encore. Begging practically ensued before Sam took the stage and played an instrumental piece on the keyboard. After a bit of this, Wagner came back, followed shortly thereafter by Jake and finally Josh.
For the encore, they played “Age of Man,” then Josh then said they ran out of time and must be respectful of the venue and that they can only play one more song. The grand finale of sorts was “Highway Tune,” which Josh said was his favorite tune. I feel like he said that about a few of the songs and I know fans have more than one favorite.
I highly recommend going to see Greta Van Fleet in concert. They will be playing with special guests Rival Sons between now and March 28th and a couple of festivals this May. Those nearby can check them out at the Honda Center in Anaheim this Friday (March 24th).