Following countless sold-out stops in the nation’s largest cities, a meteoric rise to stardom, and a worldwide music shutdown, Greta Van Fleet finally made a magnificent return to Central Illinois – namely Peoria – on Monday night for their Dreams In Gold tour, which sees the band stopping in new or lesser-visited markets through the end of the year.
Greta Van Fleet, Rival Sons, The Velveteers
Peoria Civic Center. 25 July 2022
Words and Photography: Ben Tschetter
Beginning the day before, hundreds of eager fans waited overnight for a chance to see the band’s grandiose performance up close from the front rail. Although this is to be expected from fans of the band, Greta Van Fleet had not performed in this market since they were a relatively unknown band back in December 2017, so their return was warmly welcomed by both local and travelling fans from all over the country.
This time around, the band sold out the Civic Center arena, which seats over 11,000 fans – a feat that even veteran rockers and hitmakers struggle to accomplish.
Greta Van Fleet began in 2012 just seven hours away in the small town of Frankenmuth, MI, and broke into the spotlight in late 2017, the last time they performed in the city of Peoria. Since then, they have established an incredibly devoted fanbase with fans travelling across the country to follow the tour, released two highly successful albums and grown up from the small clubs they once inhabited to open for some of the largest musical acts of the past 50 years the most recent being Metallica, in some of the largest stadiums in the western hemisphere.
As crowds poured from the streets into the halls of the Civic Center arena, The Velveteers, a hard-rocking indie trio appeared onstage to warm up the crowd for an unforgettable night of rock n’ roll. Short and sweet, the band delivered a well-received set that only built up the already massive tension which was so palpable in the air. Soon, one of the most beloved bands of the past decade would be in front of the room.
Before the main event, however, attendees were also treated to an impressive set of gritty, bluesy rock from another one of the genre’s rising stars (and what many may consider one of the “Saviors of rock n’ roll”), Rival Sons.
The five-piece California-based outfit delivered a punch of grit with singer Jay Buchanan’s powerful vocals paired with the fuzz of guitarist Scott Holiday’s hard-hitting riffs, all supported by the rhythm section’s careful guidance. Many GVF fans loved the combo of artists and could be seen singing along with many of Rival Sons’ hits as well.
After a scorching seven-song performance, the band quickly bowed out with a quick “Thank You”, and took off to leave the memory and resonance of their excellent performance simmering in the crowd’s minds. If you weren’t a fan before, you surely were after this electric display.
Greta Van Fleet
Finally, after a brief turnover, the curtain fell to temporarily hide the stage setup, and the lights went down to an ear-piercing roar from the room which had women outnumbering men 3 to 1. The voice of lead singer Josh Kiszka then began to course through the speakers, speaking in a sort of prophetic intellect, which was quickly overwhelmed by louder cheering as the band was moments from being centre stage.
At long last, the silhouettes of four young figures appeared, cast onto the large curtain that shrouded the mystery of the stage setup. As the crowd grew louder and louder, suddenly the opening riff to Built By Nations, one of the band’s most Led Zeppelin-esque riffs began to play, and the curtain falls, revealing a sleek stage setup, completely dressed in white and looking like something between a futuristic space-themed setup and the halls of a historic temple.
Now, for the first time in what seemed like ages, Greta Van Fleet were back in front of thousands of eyes and ears. For some, it was the first time experiencing the captivating foursome of exceedingly talented individuals – and to all we spoke with, the show was nothing short of incredible.
For others, the band had been in front of them just hours before on the tour’s opening night in Omaha, but the gap between seeing the band they were so deeply devoted to was far too long. Finally, we were all together in another place together, to connect and revel in a night of music.
Greta Van Fleet sounded sharper than ever, with Josh Kiszka’s vocal performance soaring on every note, and twin brother and guitarist Jake Kiszka’s killer guitar riffs creating the band’s rockin’ sound and identity, while younger brother and bassist Sammy Kiszka walked all over the bass providing a funky and interesting twist, topped off by the dynamic and bold grooves from drummer Danny Wagner, who never missed a beat.
Like a fine wine, the band has only seemed to improve with age, after establishing a unique identity and sound since they entered the spotlight only a few years ago.
After the opening tune, the band delved into perhaps their biggest hits Highway Tune, followed by Safari Song, the former of which featured a mid-song solo and electrifying jam session that spanned nearly 15 minutes.
While performing your greatest hits at the beginning of the show seems daunting to many artists, Greta Van Fleet has the freedom and confidence to do so with the level of devotion from their fans who would stick around to the last moment of the show without question.
The setlist was nothing surprising, but completely entertaining with the band ditching most songs from their previous album which had helped boost their popularity (only playing their hit When The Curtain Falls), and instead heavily relying on material from their 2021 album The Battle At Garden’s Gate.
Fortunately, fans devoured their new material upon release, so every track was well-received by fans. Having had time to digest the album’s twelve songs from the record’s release to this tour – the first full tour to present the songs in a live setting – helped make even the newest songs a huge hit to witness live in their existence.
Greta Van Fleet has notoriously put on extraordinary shows night after night, which explains the fans willing to travel the world for hundreds of shows. Perhaps it’s to increase the demand to add another show to the concert arsenal, but these shows have also tended to lean on the shorter side, never even reaching two hours in length.
While this has been disappointing in the past, and the young and healthy musicians could certainly play for at least two hours when considering their health and expanding music catalogue, the band has fortunately extended their show by featuring longer jams in songs, a mesmerizing and authoritative drum solo by Wagner, and a blistering performance of their “epic” (nearly ten-minute) track from their latest album, The Weight Of Dreams.
This song features some of the finest guitar work of any modern guitarist, with a catchy and intricate first half, and Jake Kiszka closing out the second half with a quite perfect guitar solo that puts other guitarists to shame.
“We’ll see you next time”, exclaimed Josh Kiszka after a superb final performance of their My Way, Soon single to close the show. And seeing them again many will indeed do, after this stunning performance by one of the fastest growing names in rock.
At times, the show was atmospheric, and at others lively, there was something for everyone. One thing is for sure, fans have witnessed a piece of music history they will never forget, and it will be impossible to say that rock n’ roll is dead with Greta Van Fleet as the face of the new era.
Venture to a show on the Dreams In Gold tour before it concludes in Atlantic City, NJ on 10 December.