House of Blues Anaheim
December 5, 2012
Wanna know how Mike Ness spent the night before the kick off-of his 10-night-stint at the House of Blues Anaheim? The Social Distortion frontman was surprising fans down the road with an onstage cameo during the Bruce Springsteen concert at the Honda Center. Not only did he sing with him, the Boss played one of his songs, “Bad Luck.” NBD. Career-wise, Ness is having a pretty okay week.
Social Distortion's hometown welcomed the Fullerton-bred band with open, tattooed arms by making 9 out of their 10 House of Blues Anaheim shows sell out at a rabid pace. And they do it year after year. The reasoning is simple: the hometown love is palpable and it's mutual. I imagine it's like what New Jersians feel when they see Springsteen. Ness is able to tell us stories that wouldn't be as meaningful anywhere else in the world and both crowd and frontman know that.
“When I was a boy, most of this was orange groves,” Ness reminisced. “Boys had to use their imaginations and go down to the railroad track and put pennies on it.”
The set was one of the more unique ones I've heard locally, leaving out namely “Ball and Chain” but also staples like “Mommy's Little Monster” and “Prison Bound.” It ran the whole spectrum of their body of work; not entirely carried by the classics and not too focused on the newest album.
It highlighted the fact that the majority of their songs are the same at the core. They have that punk rock drive and its either raw, or accented with country twang or more recently, blues and soulful female backup singers (who were wrongly stuffed in the back of the stage instead of dolled up and dancing front stage as they've done in the past).
It's formulaic, but a formula that works. Even after a few second clip of a Social D song and you'll instantly know it's Ness and crew. Of course, differentiating the songs may be another thing thanks to Ness' signature drawl and similar song structures.
Before launching into “Telling Them” Ness explained the song was about growing up in Orange County. “It wasn't so romantic here,” he said. “The was a mall around here off Euclid somewhere,” he began, and then referenced his heroin days before stopping himself. “Ahh, you don't wanna hear about that. I'm writing a book night now. You can read about it there. It's about drugs, rock and roll, sex, violence and bad relationships.
“It's kinda like an instruction manual for youngsters on what not to do. For some of the older folks it might be too late,” he said with a chuckle.
They carried the set through–polished as a band can be and still be called punk–to “Story of my Life” and then walked off without a word. The crowd clapped with a very slow-growing enthusiasm until they finally did a proper encore call back and the band jumped back into “Pleasure Seeker.” They played four encore songs, ending with “Ring of Fire.”
Ness ended the night with a whole-hearted thank you, “I don't care what they say, 50 percent of every show is the crowd. Thank you. You're what keeps me going.” For all the hometown love, it was still a Wednesday night crowd. The singing along wasn't as enthusiastic as it should have been nor were the cheers and jeers. Ness even said, “Come on, they're louder than this in Fort Lauderdale!”
So to the next nine crops of audience members, c'mon. At least make us look better than fucking Florida.
Critic's Bias: Neither of my usual Social D show partners-in-crime attended so it was a little off for me.
The Crowd: They all looked like they could be first generation Social Distortion fans. No young punks or toddlers with “Mommy's Little Monster” shirts this time. It was a school night, after all.
Overheard in the Crowd: “I used to mosh pit. I can't do that shit anymore.”
Random Notebook Dump:Cheers to the person who spewed all down the exit stairs of the House of Blues. If you're gonna spew, spew into this.