Social Distortion: Los Angeles House Of Blues

Orange County punk veterans return to honour their late guitarist Dennis Dannell and fucken rock in the process...

After the death of guitarist Dennis Dannell from a brain aneurysm last year, there was some doubt that Social Distortion would continue. There was very little left to prove after two decades as a band, but then again, the employment possibilities for guys tattooed to the eyeballs whose resumes read ‘guitar player’ are fairly limited in this work-a-day world.

Thursday at the House Of Blues, frontman Mike Ness comes out dressed for duty, in a black hat, black shirt, black slacks and a white tie and the Orange County punk band quickly get down to business, kicking off with ‘Mommy’s Little Monster’ from their debut album of the same name. A perfunctory pit develops which, while sufficiently vicious, is sparsely populated and ultimately shut down by a couple beef chunks in yellow jackets.

With no new album to promote on this 16-date West Coast stint, the show sounds a lot like Social Distortion’s greatest hits, with early songs such as ‘Hour Of Darkness’ crackling with a punk edge and later tracks such as Social Distortion’s cover of the Johnny Cash tune ‘Ring of Fire’ copping to a country and rockabilly influence.

It’s a measure of the insularity inherent in the punk rock world that the final encore of the night, ‘Story Of My Life’, was the first Social Distortion song to register anything resembling a hit and one that generated cries of sell-out nearly a decade ago, from a crabby clump of punk purists. No cries of the sort are heard on this evening, and it’s a tribute to the group that even the most fairweather fans of the band walk out singing along.

Colin Devenish