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Concert Review: Greta Van Fleet with Dorothy at the FOX Theater Oakland

 

 

Greta Van Fleet and Dorothy tore through the Bay Area the second week of September riding a wave of buzz and anticipation . The old saying goes, 'if you build it - they will come'. Well, Greta built it and come they did - 3 nights of sold out shows in the Bay Area! The first show was probably the most electric, as the Bay Area has been underserved by GVF’s touring machine in the past, and with support from Dorothy made for a spectacular night.

 

By the time Dorothy started their set to the capacity crowd at the ornate Fox Theater, the GA floor was already bursting at the seams with fans trying to stake out their spot for the evening. Most of the crowd seemed unfamiliar with the band as they took the stage, with namesake and vocalist Dorothy Martin in a 60s inspired body suit, accented by a flowing cape. As the band started the groove to "White Butterfly" and Martin started singing, her powerful voice reverberated off the terra cotta tiles, and soon the entire venue was enveloped in her spell. I thought it was an odd choice to play a song off of a soundtrack for her second song of the night, but the stomping grove of "Naked Eye" proved it was the right choice. With the sing along chorus and defiant lyrics, Dorothy was winning new fans left and right. Some of the jaded Bay Area audience was still standing with their arms crossed when Dorothy began "Raise Hell", the standout track from Dorothy's debut album RockisDead, but it wasn't long before those same people were pumping their fists in time with the beat.

 

"Ain’t Our Time to Die" kept the momentum going and allowed some serious soloing from the musicians in the band. Working with minimal lighting, a small fog machine at her feet and a fan blowing her hair, Dorothy turned "Philadelphia" into the shows highlight. With sparse red light conjuring images of a Wiccan ritual,  Dorothy performed a Stevie Nicks-esque dance to summons the "Ghost Of Robert Plants Voice", and that spell worked! By the end of the song, Dorothy and her guitarist Owen Barry did a call and response right out of the Zeppelin playbook, with Dorothy’s voice soaring into the balcony. The audience was captivated, and Dorothy’s voice showed no signs of slowing down during 'Who Do You Love" showcasing her wailing high notes, and continuing with "Flawless" , that became the crowd favorite, converting the last of the remaining non believers. I do feel that playing "Down To The Bottom" was an odd choice for the second to last song of the set, it was a single released between her first and second albums and doesn’t appear on either album. Though it's a solid track, one thinks Dorothy might have been better served to play one of the standout songs from 28 Days in the Valleyher phenomenal new album. Talking to Dorothy fans after the show, "Pretty When You’re High" was the most missed track of the evening, especially given the non stop cloud of pot smoke through the venue the entire night. "Freedom" ended her set, by which time she had the crowd lapping out of her palm, especially with lines like “Take me back to the West Coast…To the San Francisco Bay”. The packed house showed their love with boisterous applause and during intermission, and the bars were filled with people talking about Dorothy as the perfect mix of Janis Joplin and Robert Plant

 

Speaking of Robert Plant… next up was the buzz band of the year Great Van Fleet. One of the most polarizing bands to appear on the scene in recent years, GVF balance on the tightrope between inspiration and imitation, the band stirring up debate of their musical Zeppelinesque-ness. For the majority of the people crammed into the Fox Theater, tonight would be their first chance to see for themselves if these four guys aged 19-22 could deliver on the hype. As the lights went down and thunderous applause shook the room, lead singer Josh Kiszka strutted to the mic with the confidence of an old pro, and kicked off the festivities with a nonchalant “Another day at the office", and with that they hit the ground running. Jake Kiszka tore into the opening riff of "Highway Tune" as his twin brother approached the mic looking ready to attack. When he opened his mouth and wailed the first notes, the room let out a collective sigh of relief that his voice didn’t just live up to the hype but also justified his outfit. Harkening back to a time when rockstars looked like royalty, Josh showed up dressed for his Coronation. The diminutive savior of rock was clad in good lamé hot pants, sans underwear (you’re welcome) white loafers, a matching gold lamé midriff baring sleeveless blouse, and feathers hanging from roach clips in his hair. Did I mention he’s the frontman? Oh, with that outfit,  I guess I don’t have to mention it.  But if you’re going to do the rock star bit you have to commit to it., and these boys committed to it 100% . Brothers Jake and bassist Sam worked their sides of the room with tight pants, chest baring, unbuttoned flowing shirts and long hair blowing in the wind just right. One might think they were some kind of SNL skit on how to be a 70's rock band, except for the fact that they were FUCKING AWESOME. 

 

The first track, "Edge of Darkness and Flower Power" stretched past the 30 minute mark, with Jake's solos working the capacity crowd into a shredding induced hysteria. After the mind blowing assault that was the first 3 songs, one of the bands 2 missteps of the night came in the form of their new ballad, "You’re The One". Maybe it will sound better on record, but live it came across less "Going to California" and more "More Than Words",  complete with Nuno Bettencourt background vocals... and hair! But when you have a band that's going so unapologetically towards that over the top rock star vibe, sometimes they land on the other side of the tightrope. They brought it back with a Hendrix soaked version of "Howling Wolf’s Evil".  "Watching Over" and "When the Curtain Falls",  both from their upcoming release, finished the main set, complete with more banshee vocals and blistering guitar work. The two punch encore of "Black Smoke Rising" and "Safari Song" turned the jam packed Fox into a jumping sea of frenzied fans. And it would have been a perfect way to end the show.. but, there's that tightrope again. After "Safari Song" ended, drummer Danny Wagner played a drum solo. Yes, a full on, 1970's , KISS Alive! side 3, drum solo. The very last music of the night, was a drum solo. It was an evening of big bombastic rock posturing delivered by four young disciples of rock 'n roll, that might make it into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame one day, if they can just keep their balance on the tightrope. 

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