The amphitheater trembled Monday night as Greta Van Fleet performed their first show at Red Rocks. The young prodigal band, often compared as a new-age Led Zeppelin, was explosive. The band stopped at the renown venue in the middle of their “Peaceful Army Concert Tour,” to promote their sophomore album of the same name.
The band’s initial rise came from their wildly successful first album, From the Fires, released in 2017, which produced a hit number of songs, including: “Safari Song,” “Flower Power,” and “Black Smoke Rising.” After gaining instant notoriety, the youthful group could have easily flickered away, but instead, they released their second album not long after in the fall of 2018. Although their mimicry and resemblance to older bands draw critics, it’s hard to deny that the band has the same gusto and energy that those ’70s bands carried.
The entire night was something of a musical blast from the past, as the openers — Shannon and the Clams — were a touch of soft-rock nostalgia that reached beyond the ’70s and into the doo-whop territory. If Greta Van Fleet is the gritty side of rock ’n’ roll, then Shannon and the Clams is the smoother classic rock that emerged in the ’40s and ’50s.
Even their albums look like a vinyl you’d find hidden in your parent’s collection – and not the type you’d be embarrassed by. Their matching white outfits along with their psychedelic groove and keys left the audience under a mesmeric – somewhat entrancing twilight of a set. The snapping drums and the poppy keys fused with straightforward guitar strums did wonders to highlight the crisp soothing voice of their lead singer Shannon Shaw.
Once Shannon and the Clams finished, the chatter of the crowd grew as they waited giddily to become initiated into the Peaceful Army. Not long after, the band revealed itself on stage atop the swirling fog that covered the floor. The lead singer, Josh Kiszka, screamed with a set of steel lungs that pierced the night sky, marking the beginning of their set. Jumpsuits and all, the members embodied rock ’n’ roll.
Each song played was almost necessary to have a solo in it somewhere. For, “Safari Song,” – the third song in their setlist, Danny Wagner — the band’s drummer — played for what felt like 10 minutes of pure exhilaration. And while the wind picked up around the amphitheater it was only the band that gave the audience chills from their performance. Knowing full well that their archive of songs is still limited, the group chose to cover the late and great John Denver’s song, “The Music is You,” due to the influence the artist had in their lives.
Only briefly did the band take a break from their electric performance to play, “You’re the One I Want,” which uses an acoustic guitar instead, but still Kiszka’s voice felt like a siren cutting through the comparative silence around him. Overall the performance sided with the musicianship you’d want from a band that carries that much expectation on their shoulders.
Love them or loathe them, Greta Van Fleet is a force to be reckoned with in the rock genre and they’re here to stay because we could all use a little more, “peace, love and unity,” as the band so often urges to promote.