[live review] Social Distortion @ the House of Blues 11.01.10

Social Distortion is the ultimate punk rock survivor story. Death, drugs, jail, break-ups, and extended hiatuses ruined SoCal bands like The Germs and Adolescents, but somehow those same trials have made Social D stronger, evident not only in the tightness of Monday’s House of Blues show, but in the approach the group, in particular Mike Ness, has decided to take.

The frontman fully embraces his status as the elder statesman of punk; he’s seen it all, done it all and returned wiser and with a shit-ton of stories to tell. Many of them came out on 2004’s Sex, Love and Rock ‘n’ Roll, which doubled as a comeback for the band and eulogy for co-founder and best friend of Ness, Dennis Danell, who died four years prior of a brain aneurysm. But the current tour is anything but a dour event, acting as a warm-up for the January release of Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes and a reminder of what got Social D here in the first place.

After shedding a three-quarter length overcoat, it was clear that Ness meant business, dressing up for the occasion in a white button-down with black suspenders. Hair slicked back and tattoos covering more skin than not, he ripped into a pair of quarter century old hardcore classics; “The Creeps” and “Another State of Mind,” daring the crowd to keep up.

“What’s been goin’ on up in this motherfuckin’ town since the last time we were here?” he asked early on.

Complementing the sound of the House of Blues, which probably had more to do with the tone coming out of his ubiquitous Gold Top Les Paul Deluxe, Ness reminisced about his New England roots – but not quite the ones that everyone had always assumed.

“Found out on my birth certificate that I wasn’t born in Lynn, “The Town of Sin,” once you go in you never get out again,” he said. “I was born in Stoneham. Sorry about that; I guess I’m not as white trash as I thought I was.”

Ness then rolled up his sleeves and continued to dip into the back catalog with “Don’t Drag Me Down,” from White Light, White Heat, White Trash, an effort that had been all but ignored up until recently when “I Was Wrong,” “Through These Eyes” and “Down Here (With the Rest of Us)” began popping up in the set.

Guitarist and Youth Brigade alum Jonny “2 Bags” Wickersham has fully enmeshed himself within the D, obvious on the couple of new tracks that drifted in, including the bound for radio tale of endurance “Still Alive” and the stuck-in-the-middle-of-nowhere lovelorn ode “Bakersfield.”

“I’m gonna do you all a favor,” Ness said before the latter. “You can take the day off tomorrow. Tell your boss Mike Ness told you you could.”

And for a crowd that flirted on the younger side, many who once considered Dookie their first exposure to punk rock, they probably needed it.


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