Brave fans that ventured out on Tuesday to the LC Pavilion had hard times ahead of them before they even arrived at the venue. Traffic was unusually rough with concert-goers battling the crowds and limited parking due to the circus, a baseball game and another “concert” (Bon Jovi). Additionally, summer weather hit Ohio hard and most fans were sopping with sweat before even getting through the door. Despite the obstacles, those who managed to make the show were in for a treat.
The Sharks were first up and played a short, but oddly sweet set that shows a lot of promise in the young band. Snagging the opening slot for Social D has to be a bit of a rush and they seemed as if they were holding back a bit, although perhaps it was simple exhaustion.
Chuck Ragan took the stage next and this is a definite recommended act to catch. Chuck’s simple guitar, fiddle and bass set-up was the perfect set-up to mix up and deliver his amazing cocktail of songwriting and gravel-voiced delivery. Initial impressions left one tasting strong southern roots that sometimes finished with a bit of Celtic folk. All- in-all, the former Hot Water Music man has something to say, and engaged the crowd readily and completely.
Taking the stage at about 10 pm, Social Distortion delivered their brand of music with all the fire and deft of a champion boxer. The LC in Columbus, OH became Southern California for one night; the grit, the heart and soul that make Social Distortion was unpacked and laid out. There are no casual observers, everyone who stands in front of that stage knows what to expect. There are no surprises and no million dollar light shows, only the man, the band and the music.
The man, Mike Ness, is no stranger to hard times; his trials and tribulations have been documented in print and song and relayed around the world and through time. One doesn’t just show up at a Social Distortion show for kicks and grins with nothing better to do, no that won’t do. Those who know Social Distortion love Social Distortion, and those who love it, live it.
Social D. entered the stage together to California Love by 2Pac then headed straight into Road Zombie off this years’ Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes (HTaNR), which shows an affinity and appreciation for tight, well-crafted blues with a punk-a-billy chaser. Mike did not try to hard-sell the new album by heavily focusing on new material and he headed straight from Road Zombie into So Far Away from their self-titled third album spinning the crowd into a frenzy.
Letting the music speak initially, he didn’t address the crowd until after the third song, apologizing for his last trip to Columbus which resulted in a cancelled show. He seemed certainly at ease and comfortable with the crowd which, by many standards was a tad tame, but enthusiastic.
Songs from each studio album were included in the set and title tracks received proper attention with both Mommy’s Little Monster and Prison Bound making an appearance in the set-list. For some fans these are more than just songs of old, they are title tracks to their lives and represent a period of their (mis)spent youth. Both of these numbers were welcomed and the opening chords revived the hot and tired crowd.
Off the self-titled album Social Distortion the expected tunes made the expected appearance, Sick Boys and the Cash cover Ring of Fire (to close the show). To be fair these are the songs that the fans expect to hear; Mike may be tired of singing them (not that one can tell), but the fans never tire of hearing them and both were greeted with a full house singing word for word with fists in the air and stomping feet.
Crowd reaction to each song is telling with some of the greatest applause delivered to songs that rarely made the radio and were certainly never modern radio hits such as the Jimmy Work cover of Making Believe (which incidentally was a radio hit when sung by Kitty Wells) and Down Here (With the Rest of Us).
Bakersfield is a crowd favorite from previous tour legs with the lonesome call of an electric troubadour who knows what he’s missing at home. This was followed by Gimme the Sweet and Lowdown showcasing a sound similar to the smoky blues of the Stones or The Black Crowes.
The audience was fervent, with ages spanning from young teen (on a school night) to, let’s just say “older” and with every demographic seemingly represented- angry youth, working man (and woman), old-school country and new-school punk. Mike’s discussion between songs included song introductions as well as his thoughts on the dumbing down of the next generation prompted by school funding cuts. He also shared a story about racism and intolerance and his staunch belief that “we just don’t have room for that kind of shit in 2011” which he used to segue into Don’t Drag Me Down.
With no “one-type” of fan, Mike Ness has changed style and tempo many times through the years; each transition attracts new fans while the old ones still hang on for the ride. Every show, including Tuesday night’s, tends to feel like a family reunion with the long-time fans connecting to their past and new fans discovering the authentic SoCal, working-class sound of a man who grew up on stage and behind a guitar.
Vast periods in time between each studio album allow for growth between each release. Social D’s catalog is varied with the same sometimes-growling-sometimes-crooning voice of Mike Ness but with clearly different mind-sets and stories making a live show something of a “This-is-your- life” experience for both the artist and the audience. The Social Distortion show is always recommended and never a let down, something to not be missed and worth the money.
Set list: Road Zombie, So Far Away, King of Fools, Bad Luck, Mommy’s Little Monster, Sick Boys, Machine Gun Blues, Ball and Chain, Don’t Drag Me Down, Bakersfield, Gimme the Sweet and Lowdown, Down Here (With the Rest of Us), Reach for the Sky, Making Believe, Story of My Life, Ring of Fire.
Review by Meredith Underhill