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Social Distortion Come Full Circle – Review

Social Distortion have come a long way since they played what was then the Toronto’s Warehouse seven years ago. In the interim singer Mike Ness recorded two solo albums, original guitarist Dennis Danell passed away and the band released their sixth studio album, Sex, Love And Rock ‘N’ Roll. Now, Social Distortion have come full circle, playing to a near capacity crowd at the Kool Haus.

Social D’s audience was filled with aging, tattooed, brill creamed misfits that had assembled for one of the most anticipated shows in some time and the Toronto faithful were ready for a party by the time California’s Tiger Army took the stage.

While Tiger Army get to play large venues and stages while on the Warped Tour and as an opener – as on this night – they are obviously much more comfortable on a smaller stage. With stand-up bassist Geoff Kresge and singer/guitarist Nick 13 standing a good 15 feet apart on the stage they seemed a little lost, only when Kresge lugged his bass closer to centre stage could you get an understanding for what their intensity might feel like in a smaller venue. The crowd’s energy fed the band though, with Nick 13 giving props to the audience as the best on the tour so far, and even dedicating a song to Epitaph Canada’s/Maximum RNR’s scraggily Keith Maurik. Playing songs off of all three of their studio albums, fans were a little dismayed when they nixed their biggest hit, “Annabel Lee” from the set, opting instead for a sped-up version of “Incorporeal.”

Social Distortion opened their set with Johnny Cash’s “Ring Of Fire” and right from the first notes the Toronto faithful were singing and dancing along. The band played several tracks from their new disc, but after seven years people wanted to hear the hits and Ness was more than happy to oblige, playing “The Creeps,” “Mommy’s Little Monster” and several more songs from their self-titled 1991 release.

Rancid’s Matt Freeman – who took over when John Maurer left the band – looked bored on stage as he was left with bass lines too simple for someone as talented as he is and drummer Charlie Quintano was positively stoic – obviously just going through the motions. Ness, however, made up for the other members’ apparent lack of energy.

A long time criticism of Mike Ness and Social Distortion is that they hardly reinvent the wheel, with their songs all following a similar structure, theme and sound. Seeing them live only gave more credence to this theory, but that belies the fact that the band do what they do flawlessly. It’s the punk rock version of mom’s home cooking – it’s not going to change, but it’s perfect the way it is.

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