Social Distortion at the Stone Pony

Filed under: Friends & Family,Live Music — doktorjohn May 16, 2011 @ 12:17 am

Saturday May 14 saw the Social Distortion tour land at NJ’s historic Stone Pony Summerstage in support of their latest album, Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes. (Scroll down to see the review of the album or click on the link at right: “Recorded Music,” under “Reviews”) There were two opening bands, the first less noteworthy, and the second, a Celtic-style country band with a virtuoso fiddler, was more fun to listen to, although we never learned their name.
A slight drizzle passed through and night fell. Around 8:30 PM Social Distortion blew onto the stage with Mike Ness sporting a fedora complete with a feather in the hatband and wearing a long, black raincoat. The raincoat came off revealing retro-style suspenders over a white shirt and dark pants. They were immediately into a charged-up version of the instrumental “Road Zombie,” opening track off Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, then went straight into “So Far Away,” off the 1990 eponymous album, Social Distortion.

Ness’s recurring theme is self-recrimination, so well propounded in the next three pieces, “King of Fools,” “Bad Luck” and “Mommy’s Little Monster.”

He then announced and the band performed a 1982 obscurity, whose title we never caught before launching into the favorite radio hit “Machine Gun Blues” from the new album. This was followed by what may be the best known and loved of all their oeuvre, “Ball and Chain” which charged the crowd both musically and emotionally.

Mike Ness took time to warm to his audience with some affectionate patter, then launched into “Don’t Drag Me Down” from White Light White Heat and the slow-dance ballad “Bakersfield.” Something at that point made Ness observe how crazy-looking certain members of the crowd appeared to be as a segue into “Gimme the Sweet and Lowdown.”

Once again he picked up the negative self-image theme with “Down Here With the Rest of Us,” but sang a song of ambivalent redemption in “Reach for the Sky” off the 2004 Sex, Love and Rock’n’Roll.
Then it was back to songs of remorse with “Prison Bound.”

He stopped to talk and to cajole the audience with the back-handed compliment that their lives were every bit a messed up as his and that they were, as much as Ness himself, the subjects of his narratives, thus introducing the much beloved “Story of My Life.”With that, they thanked us and bid us good night signifying that the main performance.

Within a few minutes they stormed back out, Ness spoke a little about NJ and the East Coast sound, making reference to Bruce Springsteen, but there was no Springsteen cover. Instead, after summoning a pair of female back-up vocalists they proceeded into “California Hustle and Flow” and the execrable “Can’t Take It With You.” Neither Mike Ness solo nor Social D as a group are shy about paying tribute, which is exactly how they ended, namely with Merle Kilgore’s and June Carter’s anthemic “Ring of Fire,” made into an American musical classic by her husband, the great Johnny Cash. This left the crowd totally satisfied.


Filed under: Friends & Family,Live Music,Uncategorized — doktorjohn May 4, 2011 @ 4:53 pm