Listen Up: Wednesday, August 25, 2004
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A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Social Distortion

Live in Orange Country (DVD) (Rebel Waltz)

By Justin Press

Try as he might, Mike Ness will never, ever be able to lose the tag of punk rocker. He can cover all the Johnny Cash tunes he wants, serve Merle Haggard-style jail terms, and create the image of the stray cat moto-junkie, but Ness will always be a punk. He may be more haunted than ever by his punk lineage since the release of his band’s new DVD, Live in Orange County. Social Distortion’s early-’80s punk material here greatly overshadows the rockabilly surf and hoodlum gristle of the band’s ‘90-era days.

The DVD is loaded with tons of extras, including multi-angle visuals, Ness playing five-card stud and driving around in his vintage Chevy, interviews, and other worthwhile tidbits. The concerts were filmed over two sold-out nights at the House of Blues in Anaheim with an enthusiastic but respectful crowd. Respect is not a punk trait, but enthusiasm is, when slamming is involved. With that, I’d like to briefly interject that the years have changed the nature of punk shows, as slam pits have been confined to the fringes of the dance floor and security goons stifle any stage-diving or chicken fights, thus sapping punk of its energetic nature. Punk was always a crowd-participation sport that without interaction fell flat on its face. Ness is a rarity in the punk kingdom. He is actually a stellar player who can rip flowing leads and attack everything with a true knack for melody. However, without crowdplay, tunes like “Mass Hysteria” and “Sick Boy” lack the wallop to stand truly on their own. In that same breath, mammoth punk blasts like “Another State of Mind” and “1945” stand the test of time because lyrically they’re gems. Some of the more recent material — like “Story Of My Life,” “Bad, Bad Luck,” and “Ball & Chain” — remain strong, and yes, Ness and company can deliver these latter-day goods with conviction. It’s obvious from these shows, though, that the tunes that placed Social Distortion on the map are what truly stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Mike Ness the punk will continue to exist alongside his newer outlaw image, and this DVD does a good job of chronicling both sides. I recommend Another State of Mind for those really wanting a look into what Social D is all about. It’s dated at times but still the most concise vision of what Ness is/was.


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