The Driver Era hits go and pulls out all the stops at The Greek

The Driver Era Greek Theatre 2023 mainbar SophW

LA-based band The Driver Era played a nearly non-stop 95 minutes at the Greek Theatre last night, powering into high gear for their biggest hits, slowing it down and sharing some unexpected surprises along the way including a mini R5 reunion, surprise guests and some visual talent in the form of elegant dancers added to the mix. The Driver Era is essentially a duo consisting of Ross Lynch and brother Rocky on lead guitar along with third brother Riker on bass as well as Garrison Jones on keys and Dave Briggs on drums and the guys shined with varied sounds which include alternative rock, soul-rock, electro and some surf-leaning tunes. San Diego indie-pop trio Almost Monday opened the show, playing a range of catchy songs including 2022’s “cough drops” and “sun keeps on shining” as well as “live forever”, plus a cover of The Romantics’ 1979 hit “What I Like About You” with lead singer Dawson Daugherty on harmonica for a moment.

Almost Monday photo by Sophie Weil

When The Driver Era’s youngest brother Ryland Lynch took the stage with close friend and Ross Lynch’s Austin & Ally co-star Calum Worthy to introduce the band, it was a sure thing The Greek audience was in for a treat unlike any other show. The guys hyped up the crowd mentioning a number of cameras would be filming the night’s festivities (drones included), and fans should keep an eye out for further details on the project’s release. Gold lighting backlit the band for the uplifting show opener, “Feel You Now” with lead singer Ross Lynch in a sequined jacket and the crowd screaming basically the whole time as rapid, fluttering strobe lights flashed as the guitars rocked out from Rocky and Ross, joined by bassist Riker. Red and white lights flooded the stage for the flirtatious “Natural” while fans sang along and Ross eventually took off his sparkly jacket, earning even more screams. Unreleased track “Summer Time Baby” had Ross working the stage and jumping around while singing during the production’s yellow cascading lights which blasted the band non-stop. Groovy mid-tempo “Afterglow” had twangy guitars and drums funking up the song and setting the vibe throughout as golden, orange lights lit up the performers.

The Driver Era photo by Sophie Weil

“OMG Plz Don’t Come Around” had some nostalgic feels in the form of cassette tapes visualized behind the band, setting a different pace during the surfy, pop/rock track, which was blended with the equally breezy “Like A King.” Ross unbuttoned his shirt down to his white tank top ahead of “When You Need A Man,” setting up the tantalizing song, raising his hands to his head and thrashing around as the funky bass did the trick. Ross danced in place getting the heavily-female crowd crazy under red lighting as the guys sang “c-c-c-call me” with his hands on his head, finally ending in a brief falsetto. It was a nice change of pace with Rocky leading the chill “Places” followed by an amazing guitar solo and later Ross played his guitar back-to-back with Riker’s.

“Wow, what a surreal moment,” said Ross. “I don’t think we’ll ever get used to it,” he said while looking out at everyone as they eruped in applause. This led to one of the first big surprises —first Ross mentioned Calum Worthy and Raini Rodriguez were in the crowd, his co-stars from Austin & Ally and then The Driver Era played the Disney Channel show’s theme song, which preceded Ross playing “On My Own” on his guitar seated solo while the fans ravenously joined in. He stood after the first section and the band joined in with fans singing every word. Pink lighting flashed during the addicting guitar vamp on “Nobody Knows,” while Ross grabbed a fan’s bedazzled cowboy hat and the whole place looked like a sea of jumping and singing and clapping fans. Ross did a flip of some sort and smoke shot out from the stage floor as NOBODY KNOWS flashed in caps on the screen. For another slight change of pace, the electro-rock tune “Keep Moving Forward” offered more funky guitar, with neon greens, purples, blues and pinks melting into the band getting the entire Greek Theatre moving during the danceable tune with brothers Ross and Rocky facing one another playing their respective guitars by the song’s end.

The Driver Era photo by Sophie Weil

White starburst lighting hit the band and Rocky eventually lost the shirt completely and the place went nuts. The bluesy, balladlike track had guitars strumming and Rocky really hitting his stride on the guitar. An extended intro and disco era guitars set the foundation for “Heaven Angel” with Ross back in a skintight red shirt and black leather pants, a look adopted from Shania Twain’s “Man! I Feel Like A Woman” music video which was a play on the opposite objectification of women from Robert Palmer’s 80s smash “Addicted To Love.” Ross grabbed the pink cowboy hat again to complete the look and a ballerina in a black tutu (named Leah) took the stage for the final chorus, prancing along to each band member while holding her poses. Ross dedicated “I Got You, You Got Me” to their baby brother Ryland and the whole family as the three brothers on stage harmonized. “Everyone please welcome Rydel [Funk] on keys,” the Lynch’s sister who joined her brothers for an R5 reunion of “All Night” as well as Ellington Ratliff on drums, rounding out the original group. The place was jumping and singing along in unison once again and Ross had a little hip-shaking Mick Jagger moment as more smoke shot out from the floor. Ross at the piano and Rocky seated at guitar continued with more R5 magic, for “Lay Your Head Down,” with Ross pulling a sparkly black shirt over his red one. They harmonized during the bluesy-pop song while fans’ phones lit up.

Ross spoke briefly about thinking he was heartbroken when he wrote “San Francisco” and added, “The thing about heartbreak is the only thing that really helps is music.” More strong harmonies from the duo cemented this one with Ross still on the keys and Rocky on guitar. Ross remained at the piano for “Take Me Away” and once he stood up the band rocked out and they were all in their feels. Ross was back to his red shirt for “Malibu,” adding that it is “a good dancing song”, a sort of flamenco, beach-rock tune with a hot bass line. Two dancers (Savannah Lynch and Margie Dilivio) emerged at one point dressed in black and red, dancing with Ross and Riker for a choreographed bit that drove the audience mad. The Driver Era’s breakout 2019 single “Preacher Man” had the “hey heys” and “ooh ooh oohs” all over the place from the crowd, getting wild and Ross took a moment with fans in the pit while everyone else jumped until the end.

The Driver Era photo by Sophie Weil

For their encore, The Driver Era took things to the fast lane with black suits and jackets and skinny ties, while the guitar lick of “Heart Of Mine” created a disco-rock pulse. Fans who were given colored paper hearts held them to their phones illuminating the venue with various hues. Rocky handled his vocal like a pro on the head-bopping favorite “Low” and as expected, the band’s other big tune “A Kiss” ended the night with a bang. Colors flashed on the screen and then some lips with the crowd singing the lyrics throughout as well as the antagonizing “na-na-nas.” Ross was back in the cowboy hat for the danceable rock song, he unbuttoned his shirt again and took it off.

The Driver Era hits the freeways in New York City next, June 14 at Pier 17.

Words by Michael Menachem
Images by Sophie Weil