The fog machines started pumping about 10 minutes before showtime Sunday night at Xcel Energy Center, pushing so much haze that it was hard to make out the Budweiser logos on the other side of the arena.
There were a lot of proverbial smoke and mirrors after that, too, as fast-rising throwback rock band Greta Van Fleet came out in sequined, wizardly jackets and jumpsuits looking like a cross between a Renaissance Festival act and a hippie-themed dance segment on the old Sonny and Cher TV show.
For only its second Twin Cities appearance, the Michigan-reared quartet — led by three Led Zeppelin-loving brothers all in their mid-20s — tried to create an old-school, '70s-era arena-rock spectacle complete with psychedelic visuals, lengthy drum and guitar solos, and a singer whose flowery voice reaches high enough to get Zeus to come down off the mountain.
To most of the 13,000 or so fans on hand for the show — an impressive turnout considering it was a holiday and State Fair weekend— the band succeeded in its quest for fire and flash. Many of them stood and stared in awe as songs like "Heat Above" and "The Archer" poured on the pyro and the rock 'n' roll pomposity.
Even those who came to gawk at or mock the dazed-and-contrived hippie-rock presentation — and there was plenty to keep them entertained — had to admire the group's unabashed showmanship and undeniably fiery vocals and guitar work.
The crowd in this case was too young to have even seen Led Zeppelin's one-off 2007 reunion show for charity. Like last weekend's pair of Arctic Monkeys concerts at the Armory and last month's Paramore show at the X, Greta Van Fleet's local arena debut offered a sight not commonly seen in the 2020s: Lots of fans under 21, including a large contingent of girls and young women, cheering on a guitar-heavy rock band.
That they skewed so young was actually part of the charm of the two-hour concert. Seeing a bunch of geezers get out their Bic lighters and do hippy-dippy, swaying dance moves to lines like, "Can you light my love?" would have been rather pathetic.
Sunday's audience, conversely, held up their cellphone lights in that song over slips of paper, which had been handed out pre-show to create color-coordinated sections in the arena. Wowee zowee, you kooky kids.
Greta Van Fleet's members showed some inventiveness on their end, too. "Light My Love" — which kicked off the encore — was one of only four original tunes in the set list that pre-dated the band's latest album. The rest came from the new LP, "Starcatcher," which stripped back some of the polish of prior efforts for a rawer but still retro haze-rock sound.
New songs like the show opener "The Falling Sky" and the pre-encore finale "The Archer" gave singer Josh Kiszka plenty of spotlighted moments to strut his stuff, and plenty of breathing-room for his twin brother Jake Kiszka to launch into epic guitar solos.
The Zeppelin comparisons still stuck like roach clips in those tunes, but other new songs varied a bit. Second in line on the set list, "The Indigo Streak" echoed Yes' breezier prog-rock. Later in "Waited All Your Life," Kiszka sounded more like he was channeling Heart's Ann Wilson. Yes, his voice goes that high.
"Waited All Your Life" was part of a midshow acoustic montage on a smaller B-stage, which also included a shrill, limp cover of the Righteous Brothers' "Unchained Melody" and a spirited, singalong rendition of the night's oldest GVF song, "Black Smoke Rising."
Leaving so many other older fan favorites out of the lineup Sunday was a bold move by the band, one that signaled it's still evolving in its own retroactive way. Which didn't seem as oxymoronic in concert as it probably reads on paper.