Social Distortion - live in Los Angeles (Cover Artwork)

Social Distortion

live in Los Angeles (2005)

live show

I can't think of a better way to end the year than seeing one of your all-time favorite bands, Social Distortion, in their own backyard, at a sold out for months House of Blues show, ready and rested for the holidays after 14 months on the road. And sharing it with fans as rabid as yourself, no less. No doubt I was expecting a great show tonight. But simply put, Mike Ness and the boys blew those expectations out the roof, giving us a gift nobody there that night will soon forget. If you're planning on seeing them for their upcoming dates and don't want to know the surprise, you should probably stop reading now.

I got there just as the Hangmen were finishing. My apologies to the band as I obviously didn't see enough to form an opinion of them, but they did receive a nice applause from the crowd. But tonight was about one band. With the curtains closing and the Ramones starting to blare from the speakers, the crowd started to shift around to get a good spot. And it looked like a pretty diverse crowd. Old (some really old), young (some extremely young), greasers, punks, and just your average looking people.

9:45 finally hit. The lights went out, the curtain drew open and out filed the band. Charlie first with a fist pump, then Brent, Johnny and finally Mike sauntered out. He had this road-weary look about him, but then the grin on his face let us know he was in a good mood tonight. The crowd was at a boiling point now. People were jostling for position; shit was about to go off. And with Mike yelling "Are you guys ready to do this motherfucker?," the opening chords to "The Creeps" ignited the crowd. Simultaneously, a steady stream of balloons dropped from the ceiling, making for one of the more interesting circle pits I'd ever seen. The song was tight, aggressive as fuck, and a sign of things to come.

Next up was "Another State of Mind," played as furiously as I'd ever seen them play it. Then out of nowhere came "It Wasn't a Pretty Picture." Absolutely incredible, as it looked like they were going through their old songs first. And you could also tell at that point they'd already lost a lot of the younger and newer fans in the crowd. Upon recognizing the opening chords to my all-time favorite Social Distortion song "Telling Them," chills went down my spine. I realized they were going song by song through the classic Mommy's Little Monster album. I pretty much lost it at this point. "Hour of Darkness" was next and flawless. "Mommy's Little Monster" was of course huge, followed by "Anti-Fashion," "All the Answers," and a ripping version of "Moral Threat" to which storyteller Mike confessed he "wrote at 3AM probably after getting my ass kicked by a bunch of rednecks...the same ones who are in some circle jerk now waiting for Led Zeppelin to come back."

And thus concluded one of the most impressive 9-song runs I'd ever seen. I'm a fan of all their records, but the raw punk rock energy of the first one always had me spinning it the most. It looked like Mike enjoyed playing the songs as much as we were enjoying listening to them. Whether he was jumping around or laughing it up with the band or just straight up attacking each song with sheer abandon, he probably took himself and a bunch of the diehard fans back a couple of years. I was very impressed with how well the band pulled off the songs live as it was obvious they put in the time to practice them. And while the guys may be getting up in age, they can still kill it live.

Down came the "Mommy's Little Monster" banner (I missed that little hint) to reveal the "Sex, Love and Rock'n'Roll" banner. The staples "Reach for the Sky" and "Story of My Life" no doubt got the biggest reactions from the crowd. A stirring solo backed only by keyboards of "When the Angels Sing" from the oft-ignored White Light, White Heat, White Trash album had to be one of the highlights of the show. And if the bluesy/country feel of a new song called "Bakersfield" is any indication of what's to come, then we're in for another quality record. The encore included "This Time Darlin'," another gem they pulled out of nowhere which was nice to see. The 90-minute set came to a close with Mike Ness talking about his hero Johnny Cash before jumping into "Ring of Fire," which had the entire place going one more time for the night's final frenzy.

The love for this band is neverending. It's not hard to figure that out when you see that every one of their 30 dates here in Southern California have been sold out for a while. And it wouldn't surprise me if they tacked on another month and sold those out too. They seem to be getting bigger and bigger. And yes, with that comes the morons who pummel each other for every song, regardless of who's on stage or what's being played. And it also comes with the idiots who yell "Play 'Sick Boy!' Play 'Ball and Chain!' Play 'Sick Boy!' Play 'Free Bird!'" all night long and give their buddies the congratulatory high-five. But if that means the band will continue to write new songs and record and tour and pull out sets like tonight, then I'll gladly take that trade-off any day.

Set list:

  • The Creeps
  • Another State of Mind
  • It Wasn't a Pretty Picture
  • Telling Them
  • Hour of Darkness
  • Mommy's Little Monster
  • Anti-Fashion
  • All the Answers
  • Moral Threat
  • Under My Thumb
  • Reach for the Sky
  • Highway 101
  • Bakersfield
  • Story of My Life
  • When the Angels Sing
  • Send Her Back
  • This Time Darlin'
  • Bye Bye Baby
  • Ring of Fire