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Social Distotion Tour Poster

Just like 17 Again: Social Distortion Live

Social Distortion w/ Frank Turner and Lucero at the Kool Haus in Toronto, Oct 23

By Scott Thomson

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It had been years since I last saw Social Distortion live. The one and only time I had the chance was on a Warped Tour stop in 1997 at the London Fair Grounds. Seeing them back then left an impression on me that I would not forget.

In a tour filled with skate-punk bands and rising stars, they along with The Descendents stood out like gods to the crowd. They were not just band. They were part of the ethos that brought us all here.

I am not sure why I had never seen the band since. I had my chances, but there was something about the $40 ticket that never felt right. Hell, their live show was perfectly captured on their 1998 disc Live At The Roxy. I just never felt the need.

All this changed when I read the billing for their latest show in Toronto. Opening up would be Frank Turner (look for the article coming up in December) and Lucero. Two acts I love and respect more than most. Sure the show was expensive, and at one of the worst venues in the city, but this was not an opportunity I was about to pass up.

Getting to the Kool Haus on a rainy Saturday night, the place was not even half full by the time we arrived for the start of Turner’s set. He had spent the night before putting on a spectacular show at the Horseshoe Tavern, and truthfully, I wasn’t expecting that much from this set. The venue is not the kind of place you want to see Frank Turner. It is much too large and warehouse-like to get any atmosphere, however, from the start of this set it was evident that he wasn’t about to play dead on a larger stage.

Turner’s short set was a near perfect example of what any opener should do. The crowd was lively and singing along. The beer and whiskey were flowing. Turner’s set had everyone ready for the great night we all had ahead.

Here was Social Distortion’s Setlist:

The Creeps
Another State Of Mind  
Mommy's Little Monster  
Sick Boys  
Don't Drag Me Down  
I Was Wrong  
Bye Bye Baby  
Still Alive  
Ball and Chain  
Through These Eyes  
King of Fools  
When She Begins  
Making Believe  (Jimmy Work cover)

So Far Away 
Prison Bound 
Down Here (With the Rest of Us)  
Ring Of Fire Play Video (Johnny Cash cover)

Sadly, I can’t say the same about Tennessee band Lucero.

They were, up until that night, a band I had never seen live. I had read tales about two-hour sets, drunken sing-alongs and remarkable shows. But what I saw was a band that was not comfortable in a room not designed for their brand of country-rock. The sound mix from where I was standing was pretty bad. I could only hear about half of the instruments being played. The drums were too loud and lead-singer Ben Nichols’ voice was not loud enough.

Whether the band took notice of this, I am not sure, but it seemed like they were just going through the motions. The songs all sounded good. They had me singing along, but something was missing.

Following their set, the crowd pushed forward in anticipation of the Orange County legends. The Social Distortion stage was littered with clichéd decorations. A gas pump, a cross, a massive banner with a car on it all transformed the stage into something you would expect to see in a New Jersey auto-body shop.

The band took the stage and jumped right into a set of classics. Their first four songs (The Creeps, Another State Of Mind, Mommy’s Little Monster, Sick Boy) blew me away, and quite literally knocked the glasses off my face.

Well, it was an elbow that did that, but I am blaming the music!

I felt like that 17 year old kid falling in love with the music all over again. The set was littered with classics spanning nearly their entire career. Oddly missing were songs from their most recent record, 2004’s Sex, Love & Rock ‘n’ Roll. A pity, because it is likely their most consistent showing.

The band did play two new songs that night. The first an energetic anthem called “Still Alive” and another “Bakersfield” about town in California front man Mike Ness is not too fond of. Both tracks are set to be featured on the bands upcoming record Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, which is set to hit stores in early 2011.

By the time the band finished their first set with Somewhere Between Heaven And Hell’s “Making Believe” I wanted to call up all of the friends I used to sing these songs with. I wanted to drink by the river, sharing headphones with teenage loves. I wanted to be young again.

Instead, I headed out into the rainy Toronto night, grabbed a cab and was quite happy I had finally seen Social Distortion again.

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