Social Distortion at Marquee Theatre Last Night

Social Distortion
Marquee Theatre
January 13th, 2011

It's a testament to Social Distortion's prominent influence on younger punk rock n' roll bands that two songs in to opening band Dead Relatives' set, I thought they were Social Distortion. 

It's either a testament to that or how crappy a music critic I am. I'm a bit under the weather, so forgive me if I allow myself a little leeway; it's just that I showed up late, too late to catch opening bands I assumed, and for just a couple songs, I thought maybe Mike Ness had sacked the other guys in his band a replaced them with a bunch of young bucks.

Let's make it clear that you could certainly pick worse bands to sound like. Social D are 30 year vets, and they made it a point to point out their status as punk rock elder statesmen several times during their set. They've earned the bragging rights, and were more than willing to thank the crowd for their long lasting support, with singer Mike Ness proclaiming that "Phoenix and Tempe used to be one of the only towns that would have us, back in '81. Good times..."  

Taking the stage to House of Pain soundtrack, Social Distortion took the stage looking the part, with Ness decked out in a suit. He quickly discarded the blazer, sporting suspenders and a pressed white shirt. After an instrumental intro, the band launched into "So Far Away," eliciting immediate crowd surfing.

"Hello there, long time no see," Ness said, leading the the band into "Mommy's Little Monster," a hit from their '81 debut of the same name. Plenty of the crowd looked like they had been around long enough to remember the track's original era, there was plenty of gray hair slicked back into stylish pompadours among the crowd, mingling among the bros, punkers and working class rockers.

In addition to the classics, the band aired songs from their new record, Hard Time & Nursery Rhymes, like new single "Machine Gun Blues," and "Bakersfield," a particularly honky tonk sounding number, with a western noir spoken word breakdown.

Before giving a faithful reading to Hank Williams' "Alone & Forsaken, Ness described the bands musical DNA: "We like the Rolling Stones, and the Ramones; We're a little Johnny Thunders and a little Johnny Cash."

The combination sounds simple, but it's this lineage that affords Social Distortion the kind of fervent fan base on display last night at the Marquee. Punk's energy often leads to an inevitable burning out, but bands like Social Distortion owe as much to classic rock and country as they do SoCal punk. The band ended their encore set with "Ring of Fire," the classic Johnny Cash tune.

It's a song many associate as much with Social D as they do Cash, and glancing around at the tattooed love boys and girls dancing and singing along, it was hard to find any fault with that.

Set List:

"So Far Away"
"Gotta Know the Rules"
"Mommy's Little Monster"
"Sick Boy"
"Machine Gun Blues"
"Ball & Chain"
"Through These Eyes"
"Just Give Me The Sweet & Lowdown"
"Alone & Forsaken"
"When She Begins"
"Making Believe"


"Prison Bound"
"Down Here (w/The Rest of Us)"
"Cold Feelings"
"Still Alive"
"Ring of Fire"

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night:
Social Distortion at the Marquee Theatre

Personal Bias: Until I was at the show, I didn't realize how many Social Distortion songs I love: "Sick Boy" had me grinning from ear to ear, and "Still Alive" is a pretty awesome anthem.

The Crowd: I normally nick folks for wearing band t-shirts to that band's show, but when you've got a logo as iconic as the Social D skeleton, I guess you have to give some respect.

Overheard in the crowd:

Dude: "How old are you?"

Kid:  "EIGHT!"

Dude: "With a full fledged mohawk? Alright!"

Random notebook dump: "Ness really hates Creed."

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.