Tempe, Ariz. — Social Distortion are no strangers to touring, and after a one and a half months long summer tour and 8 weeks of recuperation, they were back at it again and kicking off their Fall 2018 tour to a sold out Monday at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe. Known for bringing along with them some promising new talent to get the crowd revved up before they make their grand entrance, this tour is no different. Accompanying the band for their September shows is Justin Townes Earle, as well as Valley Queen, to be followed by Will Hoge and Pony Bradshaw for the month of October.
Half an hour before the theater doors were set to open, and the parking lot was nearly full. With hopes of snagging a great vantage point, several generations of Social D fans braved the 100 degree heat while standing in line, donning their page boy caps, Black Kat Kustoms shirts, tattoos, and multi-colored hair.
The Los Angeles-based group Valley Queen were the first to take the stage, giving fans a sampling of songs from their recently released debut album, Supergiant.
The four-piece group, with an excellent energy and apparent cohesiveness, seemed to truly enjoy what they do. With a voice reminiscent of Sinead O’Connor and a carefree flit about the stage, front-woman Natalie Carol lit up the room with an unparalleled vibrance. Not long into their second song, amidst the sound of Shawn Morones’ slide guitar and Neil Wogensen’s energetic bass licks in alignment with Mike DeLuccia’s drumbeats, Natalie broke a string for the very first time on a guitar she stated she’d had for over 6 years and chalked it up as an omen of great things to come.
Next up was singer/songwriter Justin Townes Earle, who connected with the audience on a level that few musicians are known to do. With a smirk and eye contact with the folks up front, he touched on the motivation behind each song he’d written before he performed it.
Accompanying him were bassist Mike Luzecky from Denton, TX, and drummer Bill Campbell from Brooklyn, NY, who had only met that day and had one rehearsal prior to playing together — not that anyone would be able to tell, however, which is a true testament to their talents. It is apparent that this second generation music star is definitely forging his own successful path in the industry; from the fun, upbeat “Champagne Corolla” and “Short Hair Woman”, off of his most recent album Kids in the Street, to the deeply genuine “White Gardenias”, from his album titled Single Mothers. “White Gardenias” was preceded by a shout out to Billie Holiday and all others affected by the opioid epidemic.
The roadies took to the stage to ensure everything was perfectly set as the crowd inched closer to the front in anticipation of Social Distortion’s arrival. Impatient fans gained some visual stimulation from strategically placed items around the stage, like signs that said “funeral, no parking” and “inmates stand here,” as well as boxing gloves, a RCA dog statue, and mannequin parts with lingerie.
Without a warning, the band swiftly took to the stage and went right into their opening song, “Reach For The Sky”, followed by “Highway 101” and “Don’t Take Me For Granted”, all from the 2004 album Sex, Love, and Rock ‘n’ Roll. The seemingly endless sea of rowdy fans swayed as Mike Ness, Jonny Wickersham, Brent Harding, and David Hidalgo, Jr. entertained with seamless precision, as Social D is known to do.
Preceding the 12th and final song of the set, frontman Ness opened up in a heartfelt monologue about having written the next song in 1994 about racism and dedicated “Don’t Drag Me Down” to the Chicanos in the audience.
No show is complete without an encore performance, and Social Distortion did not disappoint. After their flawless performance of “Angel’s Wings”, Ness explained his friends’ unfavorable reactions years ago when he told them he was going to record a Johnny Cash song. He said they all asked, “Why?” to which he quipped, “because it’s cool and I want to,” and asserted that Johnny Cash deserves to be back on the top where he belongs. The crowd roared as the band finished up with a double dose of Cash with “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Ring of Fire”.
Though Ness did mention that he doesn’t know a whole lot of places that Social Distortion could sell out on a Monday night, it seems evident that with the fervor of the fans filing in to see them perform live, it’s bound to happen more often than he may think.
Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Photography © Reagle Photography
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