Social Distortion @ Stage AE, Pittsburgh PA

Live Reviews | May 16th, 2011

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Date: May 11th, 2011
Opening Band: Sharks, Chuck Ragan
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Downtown Pittsburgh has been lacking in concert venues and outdoor ones are virtually nonexistent. This summer a new one called Stage AE opened up right next to Heinz Field and already there are a slew of shows lined up with everyone from Danzig to Weird Al Yankovic to ZZ Top playing this summer. Social Distortion held the distinction of being the first outdoor show at this venue and what a hell of a way to kick off the summer
concert series.

Opening for Social Distortion were a band from the UK called Sharks (and not the UK Psychobilly band of the same name but with a The first) and Chuck Ragan. The Sharks were a little bit all over the place. They wanted to play Oi, but really liked their pop punk hooks. They were decent enough but the crowd didn’t seem that into them.

Chuck Ragan, former lead singer of Hot Water Music, was up second and played through a hot and cold setlist. Personally, I’m not a big fan of folk music so I wasn’t to into this part of the show, but there were some fun Celtic songs that he mixed in that seemed to get the crowd prepped for Social D.

The last time that Social Distortion played Pittsburgh they had to resort to playing in a roller skating ring and Mike Ness, lead singer of Social Distortion, commented that they finally had a place to play now. With that statement he kicked off the setlist with “Road Zombie”, the opening track from their new album “Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes” and didn’t look back. They blew through “So Far Away” and then played a handful
of classic gems like “Mommy’s Little Monster” and “King of Fools” and one of my favorites “Don’t Drag Me Down”. Of course they played the most recognizable songs in their arsenal like “Story Of My Life”, “Bad Luck”, and “Ball and Chain”, but the highlight of the night was when they brought out Chuck Ragan’s fiddle player and played very cool quasi-Celtic, semi-acoustic versions of “Down Here (With the Rest of Us)” and “Reach For the Sky”. “Down Here” was most definitely a surprise to hear since it’s been ages since I’ve seen them play that song live and the reinvented version is what makes live music so fun. You just never know when and how you may hear your favorite songs.

Ending the main setlist with “Story Of My Life”, Social Distortion went backstage and brought out some background vocalist for two new songs, “California (Hustle and Flow)” and “Can’t Take It With You” before ending the night with what else other than Johnny Cash’s “Ring Of Fire”.

Being one of the older and most traveled punk bands still together nowadays, Social Distortion are as tight and exciting as they’ve ever been. They wear their influences on their sleeves and can rock out like it’s nobody’s business. Mike Ness had the crowd in the palm of his hands all night and energy there from both sides. I hope that he keeps his word and comes back to Pittsburgh much more often now that he has a place to play. I know I’ll surely be there.


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