Rival Sons Carry Hard Rock Torch at Orlando’s The Plaza (SHOW REVIEW/PHOTOS)

On Thursday, September 30, Rival Sons brought propulsive rock and roll to an Orlando crowd at The Plaza Live starved for a good show. It was the second show of the Pressure and Time 10 Year Anniversary Tour, serving as a celebration of the Long Beach band’s career, of old-school hard rock, and of just getting together with other vaccinated people to enjoy the music everyone once took for granted.

Myron Elkins and the Dying Breed kicked off the show with some twangy southern rock. Rival Sons then took the stage with “All Over the Road,” guitarist Scott Holiday and the rhythm section laying down a gritty blues shuffle. The band then went on to play every song from Pressure and Time without interruption. Vocalist Jay Buchanan, usually talkative at concerts, said nothing between songs, the band instead plowing straight through the anniversary album, including the crowd-pleasing title track.

Michael Miley’s thumping drums brought out the aggression of “Burn Down Los Angeles.” In “Save Me,” Rival Sons showed off its frenetic energy, Buchanan’s rapid-fire singing in the verses matching the propulsive drums but contrasting the sparse guitar and bass, only to slow down to a soulful croon in the chorus. 

The anniversary set culminated with a powerful rendition of the album-closing power ballad “Face of Light.” After a short break backstage, the band returned for a second set full of songs from four of the band’s other albums (with debut album Before the Fire is the only neglected LP). In the second set, the band opened up more, Buchanan bantering with the crowd. 

On “Open My Eyes,” Holiday unleashed the band’s best riffing, featuring an infectious Jimmy Page-inspired lick. Throughout both sets, the band lengthened the normally streamlined songs, allowing extra room for jamming, improvisation, and Holiday’s soloing. On “Feral Roots,” Holiday played a double-neck guitar, playing the twelve-string neck on the soft verses and the six-string neck on the hard choruses. The song ended with Holiday soloing on both necks.

The band was energetic aggressive, tearing through two sets of mostly upbeat headbangers. Buchanan’s vocals were in top form, ranging from a soft, soulful croon to a raspy howl as he danced and flailed around the stage. 

Buchanan’s solo acoustic version of “Shooting Stars” and the folksy ballad “Jordan” provided the concert’s softest moments. “Every time we plan on taking this song out of the set, someone messages me about how much it means to them,” Buchanan explained when introducing the latter. “If you’re hurting, this song’s for you.” 

Though the crowd was smaller than the band would have drawn prior to the pandemic, those in attendance were fully engaged, singing along and moving to the music, especially to the dynamic kiss-off song “Too Bad” and the high-octane party anthem “Electric Man.”

After tearing through the intense “Do Your Worst,” Rival Sons ended the show with two deep cuts, the rocker “Keep On Swinging” and “All Directions,” which started as an acoustic crooner before transitioning to heavy acid rock. At the end of the two-hour set, Rival Sons had delivered its mission statement: Hard rock isn’t dead and live music isn’t, either.

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