Jan. 12, 2011
House of Blues, Anaheim
Celebrating its 10-year anniversary, Anaheim's House of Blues smartly booked Social Distortion for a high-energy, sold-out birthday party. Social D is no stranger to the venue, having played there a whopping 70 times. The timing is perfect for the group, as they are due to release their new album, Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, Tuesday.
Appearing in a dark-black overcoat and sleek hat, Mike Ness emerged from the shadows to a large ovation. Strapping on his trademark Les Paul Gold Top emblazoned with an Orange County sticker, Ness and the band started in on the instrumental “Road Zombie” off the new album. Rather than bombarding the crowd with new tunes, Ness strategically dusted off some classic hits to engage the audience.
”So Far Away” would have stirred the pit on the floor, except it was so packed it became a tumbling mass of humans. The churning guitars of “Gotta Know the Rules” were flawless, with Jonny Wickersham strumming along to match Ness. Dialing the clock back, “Mommy's Little Monster” and “Sick Boy” brought out the singing voices of the crowd ,who knew every word and nearly drowned out Ness.
Instead of emulating the recorded versions of the songs, “Ball and Chain” was slowed down, and Ness added some extra lyrics, identifying the Chevrolet in the song as a '47. David Hidalgo Jr. made his hi-hat cymbals hiss for the opening of “Through These Eyes.” Diving into some new tunes, “Bakersfield” was sonically as dusky as the town it is named after, and “Gimme the Sweet and Lowdown” was a midtempo rocker that didn't stray from Social D's patented formula.
Showing some appreciation for country legend Hank Williams, Social Distortion covered “Alone and Forsaken,” a beautiful tune that should inspire some young punk fans to research classic country music. Ness made a wisecrack about hating Arnold Schwarzenegger as an actor and governor before starting “Making Believe,” which was accentuated with some sweet accordion.
After a short rest, Social Distortion came back for an encore with a piano-laced version of “Prison Bound” that reactivated the crowd's singing voices. Wickersham donned an acoustic guitar for a slow rendition of “Down Here (With the Rest of Us).” Ignoring his printed setlist, Ness called an audible and unveiled another new song called “Still Alive.” Bringing an end to the night, “Ring of Fire” symbolically burned downed the house, proving Social Distortion are still highly revered in Orange County.
Personal Bias: Another State of Mind is probably one of the best documentaries about punk.
Crowd: Hate to say it was a typical Orange County punk crowd . . . but it was.
Overheard In the Crowd: “I'm going downstairs to smash some heads,” said by a young ruffian to his girlfriend when Social Distortion hit the stage.
Random Notebook Dump: Mike Ness' use of a capo on his guitar is punk.
“So Far Away”
“Gotta Know the Rules”
“Mommy's Little Monster”
“Machine Gun Blues”
“Ball and Chain”
“Through These Eyes”
“Gimme the Sweet and Lowdown”
“Alone and Forsaken”
“When She Begins”
“Down Here (With the Rest of Us)”
“Ring of Fire”