Midway through Social Distortion’s sold-out show, singer Mike Ness, while speaking to the c rowd, noted, “It’s 11 years later, and not a lot has changed.”
Au contraire, mon ami! Though this Orange County quartet still rocks with all the passion and conviction of its punk beginnings, the band has toned down its original, uncontained rage, molding what was just another post-punk outfit into a tight, intense unit displaying a commercial viability that, for this group, would have been unheard of just a few years ago.
When Social D broke into the major leagues (signing with Epic Records), it brought with it the imagination to look forward musically. Songs like “Story of My Life,””Ball and Chain” and “Born to Lose” show the same fiery soul as the band’s earlier work–but now the songs are more accessible. This gives Social D the radio airplay it deserves ane helps it reach new audiences like the one that packed into the sweltering Palladium for the show.
While the lack of variety at a Social Distortion gig is a small drawback, that’s balanced by the singular style the band has developed for itself, quite successfully.
This evening’s most effective moments were songs that Ness sang as if they were literally tales of his life. The plaintive “99 to Life” was sung with all the conviction of a remorseful con: “I’m brokenhearted, I’m a broken man … The good Lord above, please have mercy on me.”
Older fans may cry sellout, but they would be missing the magic of seeing Social Distortion finally reap the rewards of 11 years of sweat and blood. That the band is seeing success now is validation that the band going in the right direction.