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Social Distortion | September 9, 2015

Orange County punk rock veterans Social Distortion just wrapped up the latest tour leg in support of the the 25th anniversary of their self-titled release. A sweltering Wednesday night found Social D on stage at Oakland’s historic Fox Theater where it just so happens that the band headlined the first show after the venue’s 2009 reopening. The evening kicked off with top-notch sets by Drag the River and Nikki Lane and, as the general admission floor gradually filled to capacity, those not interested in their alt-country tinged sets were more-than-content to park themselves at the rear bar and down a few cocktails in preparation for the headliner.

By the time Ness and the boys strolled onto the stage around 10 pm to the Rolling Stones Sympathy for the Devil, the general admission floor was packed tight and the tone of the evening had been appropriately set. Anyone paying attention to the show’s billing should have already had a pretty good idea what was in store with the setlist, but Mike Ness had his own ideas about how it would be delivered. From the first notes of the first track off of Social Distortion, it was clear that Ness was going to deliver the material slowed down and buffed up but with twice the swagger; consider the material Hard Times and Nursery “Rhymes-ized” without the backup singers. Songs like Sick Boys, Ball and Chain and Story of My Life have become staples of Social D’s sets and were met with the expected reaction from the crowd which was anxious to stir things up in the pit. But the real treat was to hear those tunes which have become rarities in recent years … So Far Away, Let it Be Me and of course A Place In My Heart … frenetically paced or not, this is an album holds up exceptionally well with the test of time.

Wrapping the 25th anniversary tribute with Cold Feelings, Ness was ready to move on to more pressing matters. A band that’s long been criticized for not being “punk,” Social Distortion then did something pretty damn punk … playing exactly what they felt like playing.  As a guy that’s thoroughly explored his influences both through his solo material and more recently through Social Distortion’s Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, Ness offered no apology as he brought out Nikki Lane for backup vocals on the Stones’ Wild Horses followed by a stunning cover of Hank Williams’ Alone and Forsaken and a “country song” (This Time Darlin’).  But if you thought that it was going to be country tunes for the rest of the evening, you would have found yourself been dead wrong. “Alright it’s time to pick things up. I wrote this song instead of breaking someone’s legs,” and there went the floor spinning out of control again as the band wrapped the main portion of their set with Far Behind.

Returning to the stage after a short break, Social Distortion finished the 1 hour and 45 minute set with Don’t Drag Me Down and a final pair of covers including their standard closer, Ring of Fire, which had been noticeably omitted from the Social Distortion set. For a guy that’s played by his own rules for over 30 years, I’d say Mike Ness is doing something right. If you missed them this time around, there are more West Coast shows coming up in October. Don’t make that mistake twice.


  • So Far Away
  • Let It Be Me
  • Story of My Life
  • Sick Boys
  • Ball and Chain
  • It Coulda Been Me
  • She’s a Knockout
  • A Place in My Heart
  • Drug Train
  • Cold Feelings
  • Wild Horses
  • Alone and Forsaken
  • This Time Darlin’
  • Far Behind


  • Don’t Drag Me Down
  • Folsom Prison Blues
  • Ring of Fire

Supporting acts: Drag The River | Nikki Lane

More on Social Distortion: Facebook | Website | Shows | Twitter | MySpace

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