Retro rockers Greta Van Fleet visits Coliseum
Detractors can’t slow success of group as they prep for Coliseum
They might have their detractors, but Greta Van Fleet are not being slowed down by them.
Having already won a Best Rock Album Grammy for 2018’s EP From the Fires, the band from Frankenmuth, Michigan, are on the road in support of their second release, The Battle at Garden’s Gate. The Dreams In Gold tour, works its way to Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday, Sept. 20, with opening acts Houndmouth and Robert Finley.
Formed in 2012 by brothers Jake, Josh, and Sam Kiszka, along with drummer Kyle Hauck, who was eventually replaced by Danny Wagner, the group with roots in 1970s rock caught their first break by getting “Standing On” chosen for a Chevy commercial in the Detroit area. They reached even more listeners in 2016 when “Highway Tune” was shown during an episode of the hit Showtime series Shameless. After being re-recorded, “Highway Tune,” which guitarist Jake Kiszka says he created the riff for in 2010, became the band’s first single and garnered a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Performance, which was posthumously awarded for Chris Cornell’s “When Bad Does Good.”
That same year, Greta Van Fleet was nominated for Best New Artist, won by Dua Lipa, and Best Rock Song for “Black Smoke Rising,” which as given to the songwriters Jack Antonoff and Annie Clark for St. Vincent’s “Masseduction.”
“It has been a dream of mine, obviously, but for it to happen before 2019 was just a feeling like having water dumped on you to wake up,” Wagner said of the nomination on the Grammys website. “It is kind of refreshing … it’s a massive compliment.”
Although they did miss out on three awards that night, From the Fires did win for Best Rock Album, beating out Alice In Chains, Fall Out Boy, Ghost, and Weezer.
“We would like to dedicate this achievement to all the aspiring musicians gifting their music to the world,” the band tweeted. “There is something to be said for rock and its vital role in the 21st century. Now is a time for all whom have their own adaptation of it to play it loudly, the sounds of freedom rising up.”
Riding the tide of From the Fires, Greta Van Fleet’s debut full-length album, Anthem of the Peaceful Army, reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Rock charts on the strength of singles “Watching Over” and “Lover, Leaver.”
However, the album received mixed reviews, getting a particularly nasty one from Pitchfork, which gave it a 1.6 out of 10.
“Greta Van Fleet sound like they did weed exactly once, called the cops, and tried to record a Led Zeppelin album before they arrested themselves,” the review began.
The critique is a common refrain for the group that is often called a Led Zeppelin cover band, right down to how they dress: “It’s a costume — Greta Van Fleet is all costume. And if things that look like another thing is your thing, get ready to throw your lighters up for a band whose guiding principle seems to be reading the worst Grand Funk Railroad songs as if they were a religious text.”
No slowing momentum
Despite the negative feedback, that hasn’t stopped world tours and sold-out arenas.
“When you see that many people out there singing your songs and feeling something, and you can see all the faces and feel the energy exuding from the audience, it goes back and forth,” Jake Kiszka told the Grammys. “That’s something that sustains us.”
That energy has continued in 2022, with fans packing arenas for sing along with songs from The Battle at Garden’s Gate, released in April 2021, debuting at No. 1 on Billboard’s Rock chart with the songs “Heat Above” and “Light My Love.”
“A lot of the groundwork was sort of laid in the previous record, so I think that was a bit more of the thesis,” Sam Kiszka said. “Garden’s Gate is an extension of that last album, sort of an evolution of it, and a progression of it.”