21 November 2018

Review: Greta Van Fleet B’ham 02 Academy – 14th Nov 2018

When the great John Bonham passed away in 1980, not only was it the end of an era, it was the end of a band that in their 8 album, 12 year lifespan, became probably the greatest rock band to ever grace a stage.

Led Zeppelin, formerly The New Yardbirds, formed in 1968 and currently enjoying a 50th Anniversary via numerous special edition re-releases and significant airplay on all the Rock Radio Stations (including Midlands Metalheads of course 😉 ) hung up their microphone stands and guitar picks for the final time when the great Bonzo fled this mortal coil. It was a noble and justified “retirement”…

Since then, there have been a few one-off reunions (Live Aid, the Ahmet Ertegun benefit in 2007 etc) and despite constant rumours and urban tittle-tattle, a full on reconciliation has not been forthcoming, despite humongous financial reward for all concerned. It would appear that Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones are up for it, the front man, the voice of the band, Robert Plant, has vehemently refused to get involved and with a significant and successful solo career behind him, who can blame him ??? Now in his 70’s, let the man move on as we all have to come to terms with the fact, none of us are getting any younger !!!!

So, with any potential get-together scuppered at the starting line, there are, it’s probably safe to say, a fair few million fans who would willingly amputate a limb to see their heroes resurrect the mighty Zep…. Ain’t happening folks.

Roll forward to 2012 and Michigan in the US of A, three brothers Jake, Sam and Josh Kiszka along with Kyle Hauck (to be replaced by Danny Wagner in 2013) form a hard rock/blues rock combo called Greta Van Fleet….

With skills and songs to match their  very obvious 70s leanings, they have been hailed as “The New Led Zeppelin” and for those of you who haven’t heard them yet, check out this video and it’s fair to say, you’ll be a covert !!!  Highway Tune

Now, I daresay you’ll be screaming “plagiarism” but to be honest, with so much computer generated and enhanced shite, guys with acoustics and a tsunami of fucking dance music dominating the charts, isn’t it about time we got back to what true rock music is all about and so what if they “sound like” Zep, is that a bad thing ???? Even the great man himself, Mr Plant, in a recent interview stated that the band are one his favourite up-and-coming bands, saying “they are Led Zeppelin I” and describing Josh as “a beautiful little singer.”  I rest my case.

I have to admit I am no expert and life-long fan of Zep, but totally acknowledge what they achieved in the 12 year lifespan and the legacy of music they left behind. Basically, the World is READY for the new Led Zep, they are most certainly in the right place at the right time, so let’s check out their live show eh ??

Having been to this venue before, I have never seen so many people queuing to get in and with tickets changing hands at ridiculously extortionate prices (next time guys, go with the touts, I could have picked up a ticket for £30 outside the venue !!!), I opted to get some grub before I braved the inevitable beer infused, writhing sweat-fest…….

As I’m a short ass at 5′ 6″, by the time I collected my review pass and fought my way to a spot on the ground floor (so wishing for a place in the balcony !!) I think I’d pretty much accepted the fact that I wasn’t gonna see much and even with mobile held high to even have a chance of a picture, resigned myself to the fact that it was “all about the music guys “……

The support was a band called GOODBYE JUNE from Nashville, Tennessee who were partway thru’ their set when I arrived. A three piece (three cousins I hasten to add), but with additional guys on stage to recreate their studio sound. With influences like Led Zeppelin (surprise surprise), Jimi Hendrix, Kings of Leon etc, their music has been described as “blues-infused rock with hard-driving beats, blistering guitars, and down and dirty vocals”. In some ways, although it’s a very obvious coup for a band to support a well-liked and much loved band, I ALMOST feel sorry for them as it’s plainly obvious why everyone was here and with only five dates (3 in London, 1 in Manchester and tonight in B’ham – more dates recently announced for 2019 folks), the anticipation was palpable….

Although a very competent band and they were well received by the assembled crowd, to me, the reaction and applause was polite if not “get the fuck out of here we want THE band”. A very fitting support act who built the atmosphere with superb musicianship and rockin’ tunes, the lead guy, Landon Milbourn, has a mighty fine set of pipes which took the music to another level. At the end of the final song in their set, the band could have performed a miracle live on stage and shit gold-bricks, the baying crowd only had eyes for one band tonight and at around 9.20pm, they took to the stage dispensing roses, well I think they were roses, from where I was standing they could have been pencils with a bobble head attached. A nice gesture and in keeping with their 70’s hippie persona and clothing, complete with open shirts, feather earrings and a barefooted bass player (who just happens to play keyboards too – now where have I seen that before ???)

So, with a few eps and a very recently released debut album to their name, are we looking and listening to “Led Zep  – The Musical” or do these boys have their own chops ??

When you take into consideration the band have been around since 2012, it’s safe to say they are not an “overnight success” and with well documented influences dating back to the Blues greats, they may be singing from the same hymn sheet as Zep, but let me tell you – fuck can these guys play !!!

Young and pretty they are, but they have the style and swagger of a band that have been  treading the boards for many years (or they may simply be bloody good actors and mimics !!).

Not a great deal of audience rapport, the impression I got was “here we are, we do what we do, we’re bloody good at it, so watch, listen and be entertained” – they certainly achieved that tonight. They were amongst friends as demonstrated by the sing-a-longs with some of their more popular and well known songs. “Highway Tune”, and the two encore songs come to mind “Black Smoke Rising” and “Safari Song”

We had some Jimi Hendrix style guitar theatrics, with the guitar held high over the back of the head and solos to die for. With only the one album (Anthem Of The Peaceful Army), it was inevitable this was gonna be covered extensively and dominated the setlist…. Reaction and responses to the album have been mixed and I do wonder if there’s MAYBE a green eyed monster lurking somewhere (in a way, it reminds me of the time Boston released their debut album and the resultant success and furore).

They may not be everyone’s “cup o’ tea” and there will always be the detractors who will level the Zep angle, but in a World deprived of serious classic rock and a hankering for a Led Zep reunion, hats off to the guys – you are indeed a breath of fresh air and a much needed plug for a very large hole.

Many thanks to Damian John for his superb live shots, you can check out the full gallery here.