Veteran SoCal punk rock band Social Distortion couldn’t have chosen a much more dramatic way to reintroduce itself to the local concert scene than with the string of 20 sold-out shows (representing an estimated 26,000 tickets) that the group has scheduled this month and in early February at five clubs in Hollywood, Anaheim, San Diego and Las Vegas.
Both Social D and the band’s fans were stunned last year by the sudden death of guitarist Dennis Danell. These comeback shows are not only a chance for the group to try out new member Johnny Wickersham (formerly of the Cadillac Tramps), they’re also providing everyone with another chance to put the band’s checkered past behind it and move forward.
And that’s just what the quartet did, not only powering through many of its best and best known songs during the 75-minute show, but also confidently debuting a number of brand new tunes, like the meat-and-potatoes rocker “I Won’t Run No More,” that indicate the band is as creatively energized now as it has been in recent memory.
Such familiar tracks as “Bad Luck,” “Cold Feelings,” “I Was Wrong” and “Sick Boy” reinforced the band’s us-against-them protocol, while the group’s trademark country-inflected punk attack was ably boosted by Wickersham’s tasty riffage.
A rousing cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” was also a highlight.
“To Dennis: He wasn’t the best guitar player in the band,” said singer-guitarist Mike Ness, in tribute to his fallen comrade, “but he was the best guy in the band.”
Social D then started a three-song encore with “When Angels Sing,” dedicated to Danell.