From the moment I walked into the venue, I knew that this show was going to be one of the most bizarre I'd ever been to. You see, this show was held at an old, fancy opera house. There was the main floor, a balcony and even those elevated boxes at the sides where, presumably, aristocrats in powdered wigs watch symphonies while holding tiny binoculars. Upon actually entering the theatre, we were ushered to our seats.
Once we sat down, the Strangers -- not the New Zealand hardcore band Strangers, mind you -- came out and played to a pretty much empty venue with only a handful of comfortably seated people. The Strangers have the SoCal punk sound you might expect from a Social Distortion opener, and have what appears to be the most unoriginal band name on the planet. Their songs were pretty average, but the band had great energy, albeit in a very forced manner. The moves were obviously choreographed well before the show, with lots of jump kicks, spins and a lead singer that would often come to the front of the stage and snarl at the greatly undersized crowd.
Next up were Civet, and I must admit that I enjoyed them more than I expected. Liza Graves was obviously losing her voice, but it didn't stop her from having incredible stage presence. She had a unique contrast of exuding anger during her songs and then charm between them, even if she shouted the name of the city she was in ("VICTORIA!") far too many times. The band's set list included "Son of a Bitch," "Hell 'Hath No Fury," "You Don't Know Me," "Gin N Tonic" and "All I Want," and they also played a somewhat sloppy, yet ultimately interesting cover of Tom Petty's "American Girl." Unfortunately, the crowd was still pretty barren at this point, and even those that were watching remained seated, much to the dismay of the band members.
However, that changed once Social Distortion took the stage. Somehow, pretty much all of the seats in the venue filled up, everyone started standing, and the crowd became among the most diverse I'd ever seen. First, you had the expected punks with unwashed hair and denim vests. Next, you had the young teenagers who discovered Social D recently through Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Finally, you had middle-aged men desperately clinging to their youth, buying T-shirts that they will proudly sport to their law offices on casual Fridays.
The band opened with "The Creeps," then quickly moved into "Another State of Mind" and "Mommy's Little Monster." The band played a solid, if unspectacular set. It seemed as though they were mostly going through the motions at this time, likely due to the setup at the venue that prevented anyone from being near them, or from moving around at all. Though Mike Ness seemed exceptionally arrogant that night, the band still sounded exceptional, hitting every note and playing pretty much all of their hits. The band also played a couple of new songs, including "Still Alive" and "Can't Take It with You." While introducing the latter, Ness claimed the song was inspired by a trip to the flea market, prompting a punk behind me to mutter "damn, Mike's getting soft in his old age."
After closing the initial set, the band came out again for the expected encore, which featured a Hank Williams cover song (although I'm not sure exactly which song), a great piano-opened version of "Prison Bound," the aforementioned "Still Alive" and the fan favourite "Story of My Life." Even though that's a predictable closer, the show ended quite different than anticipated. During the final verse of "Story of My Life," a woman rushed the aisle and started to climb the stage, only to be tackled by a security guard. Mike Ness dropped his guitar (okay, gently gave it to his tech guy), and jumped off the stage, presumably to come to this fan's aid. Unfortunately, my view was blocked so I couldn't see exactly what happens. The crowd started cheering like crazy, and the rest of the band quickly concluded the song. Mike Ness hopped back up on stage and disappeared backstage, along with his bandmates.
Set list (roughly):
- The Creeps (I Just Wanna Give You)
- Another State of Mind
- Mommy's Little Monster
- Reach for the Sky
- Ring of Fire (Johnny Cash cover)
- Sick Boy
- Can't Take It with You
- Ball and Chain
- I Was Wrong
- Bad Luck
- Don't Drag Me Down
- Sometimes I Do
- Nickels and Dimes
- Hank Williams cover
- Prison Bound
- Still Alive
- Story of My Life