“I don’t care how hot you think your band is, 50% of the show is the audience. And you were great!”

That was Social Distortion frontman, leader and founder Mike Ness from the stage at New York City’s Roseland Ballroom. One of Manhattan’s premiere general admission venues, it holds just north of 3,000 people and on Friday night (October 27) it seemed that not one more fan could possibly fit into the room. It’s notable that a band that hasn’t had a radio hit in over a decade has been able to maintain the level of popularity to consistently play such large venues (they last played Roseland in November of 2010). However, their fanbase is fiercely dedicated to the band, as evidenced not only by the number of Social D t-shirts and jackets, in the audience, but also the Social D tattoos. The band has never changed their style to fit in with trends, and that resonates deeply with the audience.

Playing a set that featured songs from last year’s Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes (“Machine Gun Blues,” “Bakersfield” and “Gimme The Sweet And Lowdown”), as well as earlier hits (“I Was Wrong,” “Bad Luck,” “Ball And Chain,” “Dear Lover”), they also threw in some rare tracks: “Black Magic” (a song even Ness admitted he’d forgotten about; however, he dedicated it to legendary New York Doll Johnny Thunders), and “Company C” (a vinyl-only bonus track from Ness’ solo debut, 1999’s Cheating At Solitaire), there was never a “bathroom exodus” moment.

Whether playing a familiar song or something more obscure, the audience was with Ness & co (the rest of the band includes bassist Brent Harding, guitarist Johnny “Two Bags” Wickersham and drummer David Hidalgo, Jr.) from start to finish, although the finish came a bit too soon (the show was just about an hour and a half). However, the road never seems to end for Social Distortion, so odds are, they’ll be back soon.

Opening act Lindi Ortega put on a great set as well. Her punkified country/rockabilly sound fit in perfectly on the bill, and she seems poised to become a bigger name soon: her music has been used on the TV show Nashville, which will no doubt lead to her playing Roseland-sized audiences in the future. Atlanta punk band The Biters opened, and quickly got the respect and attention of the audience.

– Brian Ives, CBS Local


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