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Three bands graced the stage at Rapids Theater for a show of such epic proportion that this writer doesn't even know if she can find the words. It was the kind of starstruck performance you'd expect from an alternative glam rock super squad like The Struts, but the amuse-bouche of the night was unarguably an up-and-coming classic rock band from Frankenmuth, Michigan, Greta Van Fleet.
The first act to grace the stage was Alt-pop duo Nightly, whose ambient sounds and tingly, creamy vocals set the bar for the rest of the evening. Singer Jonathan Capeci stepped up to the microphone wearing a K. Flay muscle shirt and his recognizable pre-Nick Jonas solo career frohawk hair. With him, stood a tan and sinewy Joey Beretta, cool and collected. The duo performed songs off their debut Honest EP. Especially notable was their performance of "XO," the single that sky-rocketed them into the limelight. Borrowing from each other's energy in cousin-like fraternity, the guys swayed and jammed merrily.
Shocking the audience next was Greta Van Fleet who opened with "Highway Tune," a single off their debit EP Black Smoke Rising. The song has the potential to be the unsoiled version of what "American Woman" by the Guess Who was to teenagers in the '70s. The same could be said for their song "Safari." You just don't hear that kind of rock by contemporary musicians anymore, and half of the members in Greta Van Fleet haven't even graduated from high school yet! It is clear from their sound that the band grew up on vinyl.
Singer Josh Kiszka's jaunt to the stage was captured by a blaze of glory and lights. With a level of showmanship matching that of rock legend Freddie Mercury, the 21-year-old pulled the audience in with candor and a style of dress meant to impress. He wore an opened dragon vest that looked like it traveled from the Midwest all the way to China Town. On his chest he bore a weighty, silver statement necklace that would make any vintage jewelry collector's jaw drop. More jaws dropped the second Josh opened his mouth. His range almost reached rock 'n' roll heaven. The imperfections in his voice, the distressed, antique spirit of his words, the bluesy hues and copper tones of Woodstocks past came filtering into the theater and blew eardrums away.
On drums was childhood friend Danny Wagner and on guitar Sam and Josh Kiszka, who played to absolute perfection in "Black Smoke Rising," "Flower Power" and "Safari." Greta Van Fleet has a sound that fans will grow protective over. Many comparisons have already been made to Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd (at the end of their set, a large bearded man behind me yelled, "You didn't play "Free Bird." You suck!). Those kinds of remarks will follow the Michigan band throughout their career. They will be held to a higher standard because I predict fans will trust them with their digestive decisions. Serious fans will want the real deal forever, a non-Buzzfeedable version of bluesy rock. I think Greta Van Fleet will live up to the challenge.
Last but not least, the final act the crowd had been waiting for, British rock band The Struts, waltzed onto the stage. Luke Spiller was as glamorous as could be. His look appeared to be inspired by Prince, or so I believed. As they began to play "Kiss This" from their first studio album Everybody Wants, the holy ghost entered the singer's body and forced him into tremors. He wavered between tremoring and a James Brown shuffle that perked up the audience. Not one person was idle near the pit. Everybody was aghast, everybody was beguiled. Luke Spiller was drenched in sweat by the middle of the band's set, but he caught a second wind. The Struts continued with the softer "Mary Go Round" and "Only Just a Call Away," until finally transitioning into their radio wave knockout "Could've been me." Nearing the end of their performance, Luke approached the microphone and announced to an already informed crowd the passing of Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell. The venue fell silent for a minute and he continued, "In times like these, we need to stick together." As a music fan, I don't think I could have asked for a better concert send-off than that.
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