The first time I saw Social Distortion was back in ’95. I was 18 years old and these guys were already punk rock godfathers. Mike Ness was 33 years old on that particular night; the same age I am now. 15 years later, Ness, the only original member of the band, is pushing 50 and shows no signs of slowing down. This man, who almost didn’t survive the 80’s, can still still channel Johnny Cash and Sid Vicious simultaneously and drive a sold-out Fillmore crowd into a frenzy!
We ended up with a crew of about 15 people for the show on Friday night. Most of us had dinner and drinks at the Cheeky Monk before heading over to the Fillmore in time to catch the last few songs from Frank Turner. We caught the last of his set while in line for drinks and made sure we were positioned in a good spot for Lucero.
Lucero is one of my favorite bands working today and proved once again why they are one of the best live acts out there. This is the largest venue I’ve ever seen them play and the first time I have seen them perform for less than 2 hours, but they had no problem filling the auditorium with their punk rock/country/americana music that recalls early Social Distortion as well as Darkness On The Edge of Town-era Springsteen.
Over a ten song set spanning their career, they impressed long-time fans while making quite a few new ones. Having played Denver many times over the years, Ben expressed how this show was special and was almost at a loss for words to explain how stoked he was to be opening for Mike Ness, one of his obvious influences.
Ness and the crew took the stage at 10:00pm with I Was Wrong. You could tell that there was some action up front where most of the younger crowd converged. I don’t think there was an actual pit like you would have expected, but there was plenty of slamming around and quite few crowd surfers. Mike himself definitely looked his age, but his style hasn’t changed. White button-down tucked into Dickie’s pulled up by suspenders, tattoos down his arms and up his neck, and guitar hung down low…he instantly brought back memories of my years in the SoCal punk scene.
The crowd ranged from the kids who probably consider Social D a classic punk rock band, to guys who probably remember buying Prison Bound the day it came out. Just a quick glance around from our spot in the middle of the auditorium convinced me we were in the late-20s to mid-30s section.
The main set peaked early for me with Story of My Life, a song that had the whole crowd singing along and almost drowning out Ness‘s raspy vocals. Through These Eyes and Ball and Chain (with a reference to ‘drinking on Colfax‘) kept the energy going, but from then on there was a little bit of a lull in the set.
Still Alive, a track from the upcoming album, was dedicated to ‘the survivors’, a group Mike Ness can relate to…being the ultimate survivor himself. The main set lasted for a little over an hour before the band left the stage.
The encore started with Making Believe before Prison Bound and their famous cover of Johnny Cash‘s Ring of Fire. And that was it. An hour and a half set that was worth every penny that we spent on tickets and extremely expensive drinks, but that left us wanting more. No Mommy’s Little Monster? No Bad Luck? No When Angels Sing? I know they have so many good songs, but this was not my dream set list.
So overall, it was a great show. And it was great to see Social D again after all these years. But I have to be honest and say that the more I think about the show, the more I keep going back to Lucero‘s set and looking forward to the next time they headline a show here in Denver.