Live Review: Social Distortion @ House of Blue Sunset 7/27/15
Monday Night was the 50th and final time that OC legends Social Distortion have played the House of Blues on Sunset Boulevard over the past 21 years. A sold out crowd descended on the iconic venue to get one last glimpse of frontman Mike Ness on one of his hometown stages.
The Sunset Boulevard location, opened in 1994 and the flagship of the now 20+ House of Blues music venues across the country, is slated for demolition with its final show less than a week away on August 3. The HOB has been a landmark of the West Hollywood music scene since it opened its doors but will now be the future site of luxury hotel complexes. It’s not like a classic LA rock venue to go out without a bang, so in the final week the folks at Live Nation, who operate the House of Blues, lined up two straight nights with one of So-Cal’s most iconic bands: Social Distortion.
Social Distortion’s catalogue is a unique blend of punk, country, and rock and roll, and every genre was on full display. Ness opened up fast and hard with hits “Story of my Life”, “She’s a Knockout”, and “Sick Boy.” The pit opened up immediately and the once packed crowd chose their side: safety or all-in! The first few songs, often reserved for an encore, started the show in a fever pitch and the walls echoed as the crowd sang each and every word.
After the initial onslaught of radio hits Ness transitioned into a series of classic country covers including a rare and powerful rendition of “Wild Horses.” Ness told the crowd: “There is something about listening to a country song; it such makes you want to write a country song”. He sprinkled in a little Hank Williams right after that and then of course rounded it out with two great Johnny Cash covers, “Folsom Prison Blues” and the crowd hit “Ring of Fire.” For many kids growing up in Orange County, and elsewhere for that matter, Social Distortion was the band that introduced us to Johnny Cash. Mike Ness’ ability to blend punk rock and country created a sound that had driven Social Distortion to over 25 years of success as a band.
It was a fitting performance for their HOB Sunset finale, even though that subject was never brought up during the show itself. Fans left smiling, some were sweaty, some were still singing, and they all spilled out onto Sunset Boulevard. There is something quintessentially rock and roll about exiting those hallowed grounds, still buzzing from the speakers and the energy of a great show, and realizing you are right on the Boulevard. That feeling will be missed when the venue shuts its doors, but now it’s time for another incarnation to take over. I’m looking forward to Social Distortion’s FIRST show there, whenever that may be.