Social Distortion at Cabooze Plaza, 7/2/13

Categories: Last Night
Photo courtesy of the artist

Social Distortion
Cabooze Plaza, Minneapolis
Tuesday, July 2, 2013

When Social Distortion took the stage, promptly on schedule on a perfect summer's eve, ringleader Mike Ness spoke fondly of Minneapolis. He reminisced, he told stories, he commented about how early it was in the evening -- and how quickly the show had to end due to curfew.

While the audience was gracious, they were clearly there for one act. An act that first came to Minneapolis in 1982, per Ness's dialogue, worried that there wouldn't be any good drugs in town. It was a night of looking back, not only through their discography, but via stories of recent visits to Minnesota highlighted by, perhaps Ness's finest quote of the night: "I don't know about you, but I got hillbilly relatives up in Be-mid-ji," delivering an awkward accent to the northern Minnesota burg.

The story of the night, though, was Ness, with guitarist Jonny "2 Bags" Wickersham taking second spotlight while bassist Brent Harding and drummer David Hidalgo mostly stood in the shadows. There was also organ on select songs, but one had to really watch the stage to talk note as he was tucked in the back corner beyond the sound board. Ultimately it was the Mike Ness show, which is not news to Social Distortion fans.

Ness delivered. While the Augsburg sign that lit the skyline behind the stage may have been out of place, the streams of power lines that defined the backdrop, like a Robert Crumb urban industrial gridwork, fit the tone perfectly. Known for his slurred, gravelly vocals, Ness remained on point with the recorded material, showing the weary voice that is the band's hallmark, layered atop a rockabilly-tinged punk rock and doused in pop melody.

It's generally too slow to work up the circle pits -- though many in the audience succeeded, and too heavy to bring out the lighter-holding make-out party crowd (though a few succeeded at the make-out part too). Over the course of the evening, the songs were performed almost to perfection. Ness speaks in that same tone as he sings, and it brings a vulnerability and heart that contrasts with the hard-edged, hard-luck stories at the lyrical core. When Ness shed his hat early on, revealing male pattern baldness and showing his age, it was symbolic of his opening himself to the audience, bringing the crowd beyond the loud guitars and pounding rhythm and into his world, displaying vulnerability beyond the outer core.

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