Making their annual November pilgrimage to Atlanta, Social Distortion came to town on Sunday with openers local Atlanta rock boys The Biters and country Canada-to-Nashville transplant Lindi Ortega. Social Distortion is one of the few bands that I can say people either know and love them or haven’t heard of them. There is really no in between. I have yet to hear of someone hearing them and disliking their music (don’t test me on this one – that’s not a challenge! I don’t care if your Internet snobbery wants to tell me that you hate them – bug off).
So, this the first time that Social D has headlined a tour to Atlanta after their 2011 release of the Hard Times & Nursery Rhymes album. Last year they did tour through Atlanta when they opened for the Foo Fighters in November at Gwinnett Arena. Yup, they were part of a big arena rock tour in November. Hopefully the Internet rumors of Social D working on a new album in January 2013 comes to fruition and they’ll be back through with new songs next November. Mike Ness is 50 and still holding strong as the only remaining original member of the band. But let’s face it – a lot of the band’s fame and staying power remains poised on his tattooed shoulders – without his nasally, dreamy vocals, singing guitar, punk rock rockabilly attitude, they’d be just another rock band. On the flipside, he needs the band just as much as they need him; his solo singer/songwriter alt country albums did marginally well in the shadows of the mammoth beast that is Social D.
Ok, back on track to the show – The Biters and Lindi Ortega opened for Social D. The Biters are our local Atlanta rock ‘n’ roll bad boys who seemed to step out of a ‘70’s Ramones video as they stroll down indie boulevard and nod at glam street. This band is pure rock ‘n’ roll and fun live. Now if only they could do something about that girlish hair. I kid – that’s part of their jean or leather jacket with patches and a sneer appeal.
From straight up rock ‘n’ roll, we get right turned around into country town. Nashville. Lindi Ortega is a half Mexican/ half Irish singer/songwriter from Canada who sings in a breathy Dolly Parton meets Johnny Cash voice. Seeing is letting your ears believe, folks! The other thing I wondered as I watched her sing song her way from flirty to angry to sullen to happy and back again was that she’s probably got serious callouses on her fingers from the way she strummed/attacked her guitar – skin and nails, all grit, no picks. Aside from having charming songs about alcohol and lovers, she’s just an adorable country chick in boots. For instance, in “Bang, Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” she emulated Nancy Sinatra as she pranced and danced around the stage all the while twirling a toy gun. (Sorry that we cannot provide you pictures of Ortega and/or the gun twirling, but our photographer was not allowed to take photos during her set, which albeit unfortunate, sometimes happens.)
Following the two openers, true to his rockstar stardom, Mike Ness had a grand entrance with the band. Ness looked quite the gangster in his long black overcoat, black fedora, white shoes, white shirt, and red suspenders. He lost the coat immediately, but lost the fedora after a couple of songs. Social Distortion started their set with “So Far Away” and continued to play a repertoire of deeper cuts and obscurer Social D tracks. Of course, they played a song or two from each album, newer tracks from the most recent album, and bigger hit songs. They ended on a high note with their cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” as their final song (it’s a total crowd pleaser song and I love it!). Ness provided background info on a handful of the songs, most notably that “Black Magic” was written back in the very early days of the band and “Company C” was a track that was only issued on vinyl, but Ness used it as a fitting tribute to Veterans (because the show fell on Veteran’s Day). Whether the tracks were not the popular sing along songs or the Sunday night mood dampened the crowd, there was something somber definitely in the air that night. To my recollection, Ness didn’t even spit once on stage (he’s a big spitter when he performs). Although Ness did encourage the crowd to call in sick to work and let the boss call him at his hotel for the work excuse. All in all, it’s always good to see Social D and the handful of friends that I know who are there. Can’t wait to hear if they put out a new album and what next November will bring – hopefully Social D back headlining a tour through Atlanta!
Set list for Social Distortion at the Tabernacle in Atlanta on November 11, 2012:
So Far Away
Don’t Take Me For Granted
Machine Gun Blues
Sweet & Lowdown
Sometimes I Do
Story of My Life
Ring of Fire
All Photos ©2012 Ann Bodan Photography