Updated: Jan 2
Setlist For Strange Horizons - Night One (08/05/2021) - Nashville, TN:
Black Smoke Rising
Age Of Machine
Light My Love
Trip The Light Fantastic
The Weight Of Dreams
Built By Nations
When The Curtain Falls
Age Of Man
My Way, Soon
The stage was dark. Up in smoke. The sound of Josh Kiszka's voice echoed throughout the beautiful venue. Voicemails played throughout the venue. Never-before-seen footage of the band was on the screen. Then, everything went dark. Twenty-two-year-old Bassist and Keyboardist, incense enthusiast, cigarette smoker, Sam Kiszka, entered the stage and hopped on the keys. Next Daniel Wagner, best friend, also twenty-two, golf player originally wasn't a drummer, entered. Second, to last, Jake Kiszka, twenty-five, Guitar legend, Rock N Roller, has the best stage outfits, entered and you better believe the ladies went wild as he smiled and waved to the crowd. When all was set, the opening riff to one of the band's greatest hits Heat Above blared throughout the crowd and all of my problems slipped away from me. It was real. It was live. We were all there. Together. Reveling. Last, and never ever least, Josh Kiszka, also twenty-five, twin to Jake, lover of tea and other things, extremely energetic singer, came running out on stage to grace us all with our presence. It was as if all of us (fans and the band) had never left each other. The band had never looked happier to see everyone back at their very first show since the pandemic.
Moving on to Safari Song, one of my personal favorite songs to be performed live, the crowd got even louder with singing the chorus. The crowd's energy was already leveling up with the band as Safari is a well-loved GVF track from back in the day. At the end of the song, Danny performs an amazing drum solo that turns into another fan favorite from back in the day, Black Smoke Rising. But it was Caravel that really started hooking me in. Especially the lyrics "To strange horizons", since that was the name of the tour and the name of the GVF beer that was available at the show and through Southern Gist Brewing Co in Nashville. Everyone was extremely floored when the second single from The Battle At Garden's Gate - Age Of Machine - was performed. The live performance of it is so eerie it makes you feel like you're in another dimension.
Light My Love is where my heart began to sink. When I first heard the opening riff, I remembered from interviews of Greta Van Fleet that they always said that was the love song on the album and they were absolutely correct. Ever since I'd heard the track, it's been a favorite of mine... But hearing it live? That's a completely different feeling. "Ready to take it even higher?", is what Josh asked right before they started playing it. And that we did. As if we weren't on a high enough level, the next song played was Trip The Light Fantastic, possibly my favorite one of the night because it was LOUD. During the bridge, while Josh sings "Ram Ram Ram Ram" a good amount of us on the barricade took our hands and started making waves while singing that part along with him. It just felt right to do.
The stage went dark after Trip ended and while Josh was giving an infamous Josh Kiszka speech about God knows what, I was watching Jake tune his guitar and strum chords because I knew what song was going to be performed next. If there's one song throughout the night that would have made me pass out, it would have been that one. You may be laughing, but I had multiple people tell me an eight-year-old boy was there experiencing his first-ever concert collapsed onto his father after Jake finished his solo during this song. That's talent. The Weight Of Dreams - also known as Black Flag Exposition pre-TBAGG, was being performed for the first time as the band's own. "You buy the ticket, you take the ride", well Josh doesn't lie about that. It's already a ride when you listen to it on the album, but it's a completely different experience in person. Especially when performed right in front of you. I felt like my soul was removed from my body during this performance. Although I was lucky enough to be front row center on the barricade, Jake performed basically his entire solo in front of me. I mean he was RIGHT there. My mind and eyes were doing their best to watch him on his favorite guitar and figure out how he was doing all of it. But I suppose it's a mystery and he never gives his secrets away.
In perfect tradition, the band went from The Weight Of Dreams into Watching Over, a well-loved hit from Anthem Of The Peaceful Army (2018) that's been performed since at least 2017/2018. Definitely was not expecting this one to be performed, but I was happy to see it was. Jake's riffs and solo in this one have always been a fan-favorite. Sam's bass in the live performance is amazing as well. The "last" song of the night was a railing performance of Built By Nations and man, was that a loud one too. I tried my best to not be knocking into people or accidentally moshing to the fast songs, it was just such an exciting time. Being there, making new friends, having my favorite band on stage in front of me, screaming the lyrics to songs some of which I've only known for a short amount of time. When the band left the stage, it was dark yet again, just as it was before they took the stage in the beginning. People started chanting, "Greta! Greta! Greta!" in perfect unison. My mind was thinking all they had left to do was My Way, Soon and Highway Tune. But was I wrong...
When GVF took the stage again, Sam was again the first one to come out, smoking a cigarette and hopped on the keys. The light was blue. All I could see was his silhouette. He started pressing keys and his pedals. Although there was no riff yet, I knew exactly what song it was... And although I have tears while writing this, I didn't at the concert. "Dry tears" as I was calling it. Next, Danny came out and sat down at his drums and smiled looking down as people cheered for him. Then, it hit. Sam played that amazing riff on the keys. If you know, you know. That song brings me back to when it first was released. A song from an era of the past. Age Of Man. As Josh has stated before, "it's the story of us all". There's something about the main opening riff that always gets to me. It reminds me of how long I've been with GVF. How far I've come in life and as a human. And it's partially because of them and the people surrounding me. Jake came back out, grabbed his guitar and waved to the crowd while giving a smirk. Josh of course ran out on his stage last in tradition and started singing the first verse. During the chorus, I was closing my eyes and screaming the lyrics because that's one of those songs I will always hold very close to my heart. The chorus goes, "And as we came into the clear" and that reminds me that I've made it out alive so far. I made it to the concert. I've made it through some darkest times. I've made it this far. Why would I give up now? The end of the chorus lyrics are, "Will we know when the end is near?". And since I know this song and live version so well, I knew everything Josh would do and sing, knew what guitar riffs Jake would do at the right time, was truly taking in the entire experience during that song.
"This is my favorite song.", Josh said. I couldn't help but laugh my ass off. I knew exactly what he was talking about. "This is the first song we ever wrote.", and the crowd went nuts. Every band has that one song that got them out there, made them famous, and they're sick of playing it. That's just how it goes. But they still jammed to it as if they still loved it. After getting that one out of the way, there was the official last song of the night. My Way, Soon. The song that started this era. The one that's all about packing your bags and taking risks. At the very end of the show, Josh stepped out onto the amps that were in front of the stage and touched people's hands. Making it the experience of a lifetime. "Fuck fear and live your legend through the intelligence of love. We'll see ya next time."
*All photos taken and edited by Bethany Hildebrandt (@bethanyhildebrandtt) for A Way With Words (@awaywithwordsblog).*