REVIEW: Greta Van Fleet @ O2 Academy Leeds
It’s the laziest of music journalism to identify Greta Van Fleet as ‘the new Led Zeppelin’. Of course, there can be no doubt from where the youthful Michigan quartet draw much of their inspiration. But given that Robert Plant & Co ceased to function as a band thirty-nine years ago, such hasty comparisons have been detrimental to GVF’s meteoric rise – attracting ire from traditionalists who consider them nothing more than serial imitators. Having been virtual unknowns little over two and a half years ago, 2017’s excellent pair of EPs in the form of Black Smoke Rising and From The Fires propelled the band from fledgling, teenage prospects to unsuspecting stars seemingly overnight.
In support of their first LP – last year’s Anthem Of The Peaceful Army – tonight’s Leeds date was originally scheduled for March, but was postponed due to frontman Josh Kiszka’s illness. So, was it worth the wait? For the most part, yes. The opening trio of Highway Tune, Edge Of Darkness and Black Smoke Rising is as good as anything you’ll hear in classic rock today – guitarist Jacob Kiszka tears through each lead break like his life depends on it, while his twin brother Josh spasms and bats his tambourine around like a man possessed.
But despite the fact that three of the four young men on stage are brothers, there isn’t much in the way of a collective aura or genuine stage presence – which might be best explained by this being GVF’s first international headline tour performing to audiences of this size. More chinks in the band’s armour appear when the newer, less impactful material from AOTPA is aired en masse during the midpoint of the set – an album it seems was rushed and released hurriedly to capitalise on the initial buzz surrounding the four-piece.
The bouncing rhythms and corkscrewing melodies of recent hit When The Curtain Falls help in winning back most of the crowd, while raucous closer Safari Song – complete with drum solo – ensures a triumphant conclusion. Yet there remains an unshakeable feeling that, in light of the band’s current stock, much more was expected from the long-awaited opening date of this UK tour. Greta Van Fleet’s vast potential is clear to anyone with a working pair of ears, but it’s down to us all as fans and critics alike to grant them the time they need in which to realise it and avoid becoming victims of their own whirlwind success.