By Terry Marland, Rock At Night Manchester
Live Review: Greta Van Fleet with Hannah Wicklund and Mt. Joy – Sunday, November 19, 2023
Tonight Greta Van Fleet’s critically acclaimed Starcatcher tour rolls into Manchester. Before they hit the stage however, there are two impressive support acts to see. The first up is Hannah Wicklund.
Hailing from South Carolina Hannah Wicklund has been performing since she was eight years old. Her forthcoming album “The Prize” was produced by Greta Van Fleet’s Sam Kiszka who also performs on the album alongside Danny Wagner. Tonight’s opening slot of twenty minutes gives a minimum time to impress the early arrivers, however she uses her 5 song set to maximum effect demonstrating cutting edge musicianship and an impressive vocal range.
Opening up with “Hell In The Hallway”, an early release from her next album, Wicklund immediately engages the audience with her potent bluesy vocals and an engaging stage presence. She follows up with “ Witness”, a powerful number with an hypnotic hook-line that remains with you. Wicklund, an accomplished guitarist, takes things up a level on this track by modifying the sound via a talk box. The moody “Hide and Seek” showcases a fusion of emotional lyrics dovetailed with spiralling guitar work.
The set closes with two older numbers “Strawberry Moon “ and “Bomb Through the Breeze” receiving enthusiastic applause from the Mancunian audience.
While in the UK, and in between Greta Van Fleet support slots, Wiklund plays headline dates before a massive European and USA Tour of more intimate venues next year. Full details here https://www.hannahwicklund.com/tour-1
Los Angeles indie five piece Mt. Joy have slightly more stage time to deliver their six song set. Kicking off with the energetic, jangly and a little folky “Evergreen” from their 2022 “Orange Blood” album they resonate with the audience from the off.
Front man Matt Quinn’s soulfully stylish vocals are superb throughout the set and are a major factor in determining the band’s distinctive style.
The next song, the self-titled “Mt. Joy”, is a slow burner that morphs into a full on rock number with shades of psychedelia as it evolves into Grateful Dead’s “Fire on the Mountain”. The song incorporates enthralling guitar work from Sam Cooper and a blistering but measured drum solo from Sotiris Eliopulos. There are also some classy bass lines from Michael Burns.
The band’s take on the Dead’s number is truncated tonight but the full seven minute plus version on You Tube is highly recommended.
Intricate and accomplished keyboards from Jackie Miclau heralds the introduction of the theme from “Succession” before the band closed with two of their most streamed numbers “Lemon Tree” and “Silver Lining”.
At the time of publication Mt. Joy will have played their final UK date for now. U.S. readers will have the opportunity to see them during their forthcoming American dates. Full details on the link below.
Future Dates https://www.mtjoyband.com/tour
Greta Van Fleet
The last time Greta Van Fleet played Manchester it was a two night slot at the Apollo theatre. Tonight they grace the stage of the considerably larger AO Arena as part of their Starcatcher World Tour. Looking around the auditorium before the show starts it’s interesting to note the audience make-up that spans the years from early teens to those eligible for a senior bus pass, such is the universal appeal of the band.
A giant curtain covers the stage area before the band arrives. Spotlights projected from the rear of the stage reveal outlines of silhouettes some fans mistake for the band, resulting in premature cheers. Once the intro music (the Starcatcher Overture) fades and the curtain falls the band is revealed, positioned on an elevated platform rear of stage bathed in white light.
As the audience erupts, the band makes its way to the performance area. Front man Josh Kiszka, resplendent in sequinned white jump suit, patrols his territory before addressing the crowd with “are you ready? Let’s do it”. Amidst a stage of exploding pyros and spectacular back-drops the band launch into “The Falling Sky” from the aforementioned Starcatcher album. Greta Van Fleet has had a heavy touring schedule but Josh’s voice, one of the most distinctive in modern rock, is in supreme form and hits all the notes with ease. It is a dynamic opening that receives a vigorous response from the crowd.
“The Indigo Streak” follows and then an extended version of “Lover Leaver (Taker Believer)” gives bassist Sam Kiska his first solo slot before handing the stage to brother Jake for the first marathon guitar solo of the evening. Josh, having left the stage, returns bare chested to screams from the mainly female contingent at the front of the barrier. This song incorporating clocks in at an epic fifteen minutes on my reckoning. This is considerably longer than the original but enthralling just the same. The spiritual “Meeting the Master” follows and slows things down to give audience and band a chance to catch their breath.
A blistering drum solo from Danny Wagner precedes the acoustic section of the show when Sam Kiszka swaps his bass for keyboard duties and the band take residence front of stage illuminated in white light. The segment includes a cover of “Unchained Melody” before concluding with “Black Smoke Rising” that sees the Arena choir in fine form. As the rest of the band take their places, back on the main stage Josh is carried shoulder high around the perimeter of the audience where he distributes flowers to fans before disappearing from view only to reappear on a raised platform for “Sacred the Thread” bedecked in a long white sequined gown.
Throughout there is a series of mesmerising guitar solos from Jake Kiszka who at one point seemingly dances through a field of flaming pyros.
The main set concludes with “The Archer” before an encore of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and an impassioned “Light of my Love” that receives one of the loudest cheers of the evening. Their performance ends as it began, with all four members on an elevated platform, bathed in white light acknowledging their cheering fans,
When Greta Van Fleet came to prominence comparisons were made, with some justification, with Led Zeppelin. While there are undoubtedly similarities the band as a whole have refined their style, developed an identity all of their own and can boast a fanbase that spans the generations. Some of the older fans may be veteran Zepp followers but the fact that they are coming out to live shows speaks volumes for the quality of the Greta Van Fleet product.
The Greta Van Fleet World Tour Continues into Europe and then onto the U.S.
Full Dates Here https://gretavanfleet.com/#tour
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