Social Distortion / The Hangmen - live in Sayreville (Cover Artwork)

Social Distortion / The Hangmen

live in Sayreville (2007)

live show

Ah, Social Distortion in New Jersey. This was the second show of their stay, added on for all the slackers who weren't on top of getting tickets for the first one before it sold out. I guess here is where I'm supposed to review the Heart Attacks, but since I'm such a responsible citizen and have a job, I had to miss ‘em.

The Hangmen were the second band to play. Overall they were fairly generic, and most songs generally had less diversity than even Social Distortion. They had a slight country pulse, but to paraphrase Fat Mike in 13 Stitches, the songs sounded the same and kinda sucked. Their drummer Dino was the best part of the band, consistently in the pocket, just flashy enough and fun to watch. Bryan, their lead singer / rhythm guitarist bopped around and tried to get the crowd into it, and succeeded winning over many people; however, not me.

After a 40-minute wait, Social Distortion took the stage and blasted into the newish instrumental "Road Zombie," sans Mike Ness. After a minute he sauntered on stage with a bandana over his face and a dozen roses for the ladies. After a nasty (in the good way) solo, they launched into the first two tracks off Sex, Love and Rock ‘n' Roll. They didn't let up until it came time to introduce the classic "Mommy's Little Monster." Yes, Mike Ness gave the "back when punk was dangerous" speech. But he did it with a slight variation, adding "When you see a punk rocker nowadays walking down the street, don't you think ‘Aw, ain't that cute?'" Well, apparently he's never seen Orange, those kids are some ugly punks. Ness seemed a little more jokey and less on the macho side than usual, saying things like "Yeah, this is straight ginger better not try this at home or it'll have you on your ass," and "We have to go to Allentown, Pennsylvania in a few days? Someone fucking shoot me."

Even though Mike's known for saying the same lines for the past 20 years, he's mostly shut up and focused on the rock. "Mass Hysteria" was a nice oldie surprise, as was playing `50s country tune "Send Her Back" (a song on Mike Ness's Cheating at Solitaire). However, there was a glaring omission: "Story of My Life." I hate people who complain about not hearing all their favorites (especially when the rest of the set was damn fine) but when I think Social D, the first song to come to mind is "Story of My Life" and not hearing that song was kind of a let-down. However, they did make it up by playing an outstanding, slightly slower "Ball and Chain" and raunched-up "Sometimes I Do."

The band played well -- a little too well. The regular anything-can-happen aura of a punk gig was not present; they seemed to be going through the motions. It's hard not be like that though when you're more or less the punk rock Aerosmith (except Social Distortion has, you know, good songs). Besides Mike Ness and Johnny 2 Bags really tearing their guitars new assholes with blazing improvised solos during a few tracks, professionalism was key here, and not a beat nor note was played incorrectly.

The band looked most alive when playing the bluesy showstopper "It's Alright." After saying during the encore they had two songs left (the last one, as always, was "Ring of Fire"), they launched into the jam which included the Yeats-esque line "We did it in the kitchen / We did it in the hall / I got some on my fingers / So I wiped it on the wall." After that, the evening ended on a high note (can you go out on a low note with Johnny Cash?). The shirtless guys dripping slop everywhere and greasers bailed, having a spent a good night with Jack Daniels coming to life in song for 80 minutes.

Set list:

  1. Road Zombie
  2. Reach for the Sky
  3. Highway 101
  4. Under My Thumb
  5. Bad Luck
  6. Mommy's Little Monster
  7. Mass Hysteria
  8. When She Begins
  9. Far Behind
  10. Ball and Chain
  11. Send Her Back
  12. Gotta Know the Rules
  13. Sometimes I Do
  14. Nickels and Dimes
  15. Encore:
  16. Prison Bound
  17. It's Alright (Blues Jam)
  18. Ring of Fire