By Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy, Photos by Matt “Rabit” Martinez Red Hare Images
We are now entering into an era of rock ‘n’ roll where groups are coming together and forging the old-school styles from the 1970s that we love listening to. Some fans have been hungering for bands who can emulate the sounds of Queen, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, etc. With the Struts becoming the new version of Queen, Greta Van Fleet has become this generation’s Led Zeppelin. Greta already has a Grammy award under their belt (Best Rock Album), and they have been taking the world by storm. Last year, they put out their debut LP, Anthem of the Peaceful Army, and it has been making a huge splash on the rock scene. They have embarked on a headlining tour around the world and one of their stops was at the FivePoint Amphitheatre in Irvine. Tagging along on their mystic journey was the doo-wop rockabilly group Shannon and the Clams, an interesting choice for an opener. Rabit and I hopped over to our favorite Irvine venue to hear Greta Van Fleet’s so sweet and so fine rock ‘n’ roll.
Shannon and the Clams opened up the night. They are an interesting group that come from Oakland, Calif. Their style is a combination of garage punk, rockabilly, and doo-wop, stuff that you would usually hear on a jukebox. Led by bassist Shannon Shaw, who shares vocal duties with guitarist Cody Blanchard, Shannon and the Clams were very talented in an old-school style you do not get to hear very often. Blanchard is pretty skillful on the guitar, but his singing can be a bit whining. Whenever he would address the crowd, he was kind of awkward, as if he was trying too hard to get the fans to like him and the group. Shaw, however, had so much soul in her voice that was full of passion. She had a lot of confidence in her stage presence, and she was very masterful on the bass. Drummer Nate Mahan was very upbeat with his tempo, soft yet sufficient. Will Sprott really surprised me on the keyboards, giving the music a trippy 1950s sci-fi sound effect. Musically, Shannon and the Clams were charming to listen to, but their stage presence was kind of lackluster. Still, they were enjoyable to see, and I wish them all the best.
Full Shannon and the Clams gallery below:
The night grew colder as the lights went pitch black. Greta Van Fleet emerges onto the stage and things get rolling with “The Cold Wind.” The Kiszka brothers (frontman Josh, guitarist Jake, and bassist/keyboardist Sam) are a triple threat every time they come out to play. Josh’s voice reaches to the stairways of Heaven with tremendous command. It is no wonder Robert Planet likes this kid the way elevates his vocals. When they went into their already classic “Safari Song,” the FivePoint Amphitheatre exploded with excitement. Once the song was finished, drummer Danny Wagner goes into this insane drum solo that would give John Bonham goosebumps. He was like a tsunami, crashing and banging with such precision and force. I truly lost my shit when they went into “Black Smoke Rising,” which is always smoking hot to hear. Sam is a jolt of energy when he is on the bass, and when he switches over to the keyboards like he did for “Flower Power” and “Age of Man,” he gives the sound an electric blues sensation. He was John Paul Jones and Ray Manzarek rolled into one. I could not take my eyes off of Jake and his mesmeric riffs. Straight out of the playbook of Jimmy Page with his own added twist, Jake does not let up the whole time. These kids are barely out of their teens and they are creating something truly special.
After they covered John Denver’s “The Music Is You,” Greta Van Fleet stayed acoustical for the slow jam that is for lovers everywhere, “You’re the One.” Once that was over, they performed a song no one has heard of before, “Black Flag Exposition.” It was darker and heavier than anything they have done before. I liked the direction that the song was taking the group into. I would enjoy that this is but a taste of what we can expect from their next record. After the song, the band went into an insane jam sensation to show off their superlative skills, during which Jake went all Jimi Hendrix by playing behind his back. Before going off stage, they gave us “Watching Over” and “When the Curtain Falls,” both being big hits with the crowd. After some chanting and a much needed breather, Greta came back for some more excitement. “Lover, Leaver (Taker, Believer)” is probably my favorite track off Anthem of the Peaceful Army. They wrapped up the night with their first mega hit and crowd favorite, “Highway Tune.” Oh my, I love hearing that song. They then proceeded to do a second jam because they did not want to stop. That is the best way to bid farewell to Irvine.
Full Greta Van Fleet gallery below:
What a show! This is definitely one for the books of FivePoint as the venue’s concert season is coming to a close. Greta Van Fleet gets better and more intense each time I go see them. While they are adored by many, they are also despised by many who see them as a Led Zeppelin copy band. To the haters, I say this: SHUT UP!!! Go witness for yourself the magic that they bring to the stage, then make up your mind. Shannon and the Clams brought some doo-wop splendor that would make Elvis dance in his grave at Graceland. This was a great night rock. To Greta Van Fleet and Shannon and the Clams, I salute you. Horns up!!!