Social Distortion formed in Fullerton, Califiornia in 1978, and they have aged like a fine wine. Admission to the show was seemingly a ticket, combined with a dress code consisting of a well worn Ramones tee shirt. Neil Young opined that rust never sleeps. For Ness rust not only has rust slept, it must suffer from narcolepsy in his case. Mike Ness held the stage at the Paramount like an elder statesman who hasn’t lost even a step. The Rolling Stones version of Gimme Shelter blared just before Ness took the stage, and the band began to hold court with a rock solid performance. Sporting a fedora, Ness looked like a film noir Philip Marlowe-Ramone. Ness was all substance and no pose, as the band tore into Road Zombie. The Los Angeles Times has sad that “Ness is one of the most underrated pure songwrters in rock.” The audience clearly agreed with the sentiment, and they showed it helping to create a zealous, sing-along/ dance-along party. The true believers in attendance left no room for doubt to their feelings, as they poured out their love for the band.
The set included Through These Eyes, Don’t Drag Me Down, Untitled, Creep, Another State of Mind, Cold Feelings, Machine Gun Blues, Crown of Thorns, Sweet Low Down, Gotta Know the Rules, and Dear Lover. The audience members packed the Paramount to capacity, as seats and standing room held no vacancy. Ness mentioned that New York audience members were famous for indifference as he offered an invitation for them join in the vocals. New York joined right in, holding the chorus impressively for a version of Sometimes I Do, better than any Peter, Paul & Mary hootenanny ever did. The audience displayed more tattoos than you would be likely to find in all of the Crackerjack boxes across these United States combined, but Ness’ work clearly has forged a bond with his punk rock, biker, hardcore following. If only the die hard fans realize how good Social Distortion is, then shame on everyone else. Encores included Sometimes I Do, Misery Loves Company, and Johnny Cash’s classic, Ring of Fire.
Near the end of the festivities, seven year old William Hicks was introduced on stage by Ness. William was presented with the set list from the evening, and a drum head as souvenirs. Ness explained that Hicks is a third generation fan, and it was touching to see how kind the punk rock singer was to the young fellow. The idea of both father, son and grandfather being dedicated to Social Distortion melted ice from even the coldest heart in the venue. The version of Ring of Fire that followed capped a fine night. The audience filed out with the joy-buzz that comes from seeing an act perform to such a high octaine level, with the band’s songs long ago having become an integral part of your life. Social Distortion closed up shop, knowing they had walked the line in a special way.
Social Distortion is Mike Ness (guitar, vocals), Jonny Wickersham (guitar), Brent Harding (bass), Dave Hidalgo, Jr. (drums), and David Kalish (keys).
The evening was opened with fine sets by the Whigs, and Social D guitarist Jonny Two Bags (aka Jonny Wickerham). Wickersham opened, and then played with his mates in Social Distortion. The tour is set to close on October 11th, 2014 at the Gas Monkey Live in Dallas, Texas. Catch them while you can, as Social Distortion displays why they have an ongoing relevance in rock history, and earned a cred with a fan base not fooled by some rotten Johnny come lately.
-Hank3 and The Stone Foxes will also be on the bill for some dates later on the tour.
-Words by Bob Wilson Photographs by Wayne Herrschaft