Before lockdown there were gigs – remember those? HRH Mag’s Adam Kennedy took in Greta Van Fleet waaaay before the pandemic tool hold…

The holiday season officially gets underway on Tyneside tonight as local musician Sam Fender switches on the Festive Lights on Northumberland Street. To add to this overall theme, at the same time a US-based rock band hailing from a Christmas Town called Frankenmuth, Michigan are also making their North East debut.

Few classic rock outfits have had such a meteoric rise in recent times at Greta Van Fleet. The band’s debut single Highway Tune has had a staggering 54 million views on YouTube to date, whilst the group’s current UK run is a complete sell-out.

The immediate buzz surrounding this band of brothers has resulted in the US-based quartet touring the world relentlessly over the last two years. And this eagerly anticipated run of UK dates had to be rescheduled from earlier in the year due to illness within the group.

As Greta Van Fleet take to the stage in front of a capacity O2 Academy Newcastle audience, frontman Josh Kiszka shows his appreciation by throwing white roses to those at the front of the house before opening the show with Cold Wind. A brace of back to back singles follows including the previously mentioned Highway Tune and Black Smoke.

This evening’s set draws on the band’s debut album Anthem of the Peaceful Army. You’re The One is simply beautiful, whilst the psychedelic-tinged number Age of Man proves to be a bit of a rock epic.

Barefooted and immaculately dressed, lead vocalist Josh Kiszka both looks and sounds the part. His voice is in impeccable shape, whilst his range is second to none.

Black Flag is one of the many highlights of the set. Jake’s sensational solo play shows skills beyond his years. In addition to Danny Wagner’s thunderous rhythm, frontman Josh adds further percussion whilst furiously wielding his tambourine. The beauty of many of the tracks played tonight is that they have developed so much more in the live environment and allowed the band to spread out and jam.

Having been heavily influenced by the blues greats, tracks such as Watching Over certainly shows off this side of their repertoire. Whilst a funky airing of When the Curtain Falls rather fittingly brings the band’s main set to a close.

Some of the loudest cheers witnessed inside this room usher the band back to the stage. Like opening a time capsule to the ‘70s, Greta Van Fleet’s retro sounds weave together like an intricate musical tapestry during Flower Power.

An incredible take on Labi Saffre’s Watch Me results in some crowd participation from the Tyneside audience before a mass singalong ensues during Safari Song. During the latter of which Jake shows his skill and flair as he plays his cherry red Gibson SG behind his head, whilst Wagner takes a thunderous drum solo in the dying seconds of the set.

Of course, Greta Van Fleet have drawn many a comparison to Led Zeppelin since their formation, largely due to the soaring vocal range of Josh and Jake’s Jimmy Page-Esque swagger and riffs. However, when a lot of bands start out they wear their influences on their sleeves. As the four-piece continues to grow and mature they will inevitably shake off these comparisons as they come into their own.

Whilst the naysayers would argue that rock and roll is dead, it’s bands such as Greta Van Fleet that is carrying the torch for a whole new generation of rock fans. This in the long term can only be a good thing for the music industry and music fans on the whole.

WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY ADAM KENNEDY