Punk. Punk Rock. A legendary device representing individuality and freedom, smiting inbreeds of hate and prejudice. What better way to celebrate punk rock than attending what was an unforgettable co-headline show delivered none other by the legendary Bad Religion and Social Distortion.
The mosh pits never wavered from the moment the quintessential logo of Bad Religion was raised to the final note of 21st Century Digital Boy, as a band who’s years couldn’t keep up with them blew the roof off an enclosed but packed arena. Opening surprisingly with none other than American Jesus, Greg Graffin and his posse of fellow LA misfits showed us demonstrated no intention of fooling around short of putting on an unforgettable show, to the extend where you would forget that this staple of punk rock have been delivering unforgettable shows for 43 years.
There was almost not time to relax between hit after hit of pure energy that could be felt throughout the entire crowd, with all of us belting the lyrics of You, Los Angeles is Burning, and the iconic Generator in which my voice could not last through the opening lyrics that deserve to be screamed, or not sung at all. The banter with the crowd was a fun experience, especially with Greg’s clever quips leading involving song titles which included boldly stating that both the bassist and the crowd had “No Control” over the night’s setlist. Even during a second viewing of this iconic group, my breath never failed to be ripped away by such a force, as I have never quite seen such finesse and precision amongst tunes so electric and fast in tempo.
Social Distortion closely followed the first half of this incredible act, however they were certainly not least in their performance. Right after a pleasantly welcoming introduction with Muddy Water’s Mannish Boy howling through the speakers, Mike Ness made his godly presence known, rocking a beret, hunched over his Les Paul, and his wildly engaging eccentricity and poses. Bad Luck as one of the opening tracks set up the vibe of Social Distortions heavily electric set influenced by many punk greats such as The Clash, Ramones, and Iggy and the Stooges, as stated by Ness himself.
Suddenly, my ears caught attention to the familiar introductory guitar lick of Wicked Game by Chris Isaak, and relished in such an impressive cover of a legendary recognisable track mixed with a more heavier recital known to Distortion, which was in itself a set up for an incredible second half of their set built on the foundations of such powerful and touching stories and political messages, with Ball and Chain delivering a melancholic tale of heartbreak and addiction, and the clear hatred towards racism through Don’t Drag Me Down, and with this tune alone, Mike’s words leading into the track couldn’t ring truer even in today’s society:
“White. White…..is not superior. It never has been, and never will be”
The encore in itself was a highlight, opening with Born to Kill followed closely by Story of my Life, a touchingly nostalgic story about the old days, when times were simpler, when high school was a bore and when you always wished to court that one individual a few desks away from you, concluding with the hope of similar happiness and pursuit of success in the future of your life. The show concluded with a cover of Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash, featured famously on Social Distortion’s self-titled 1990 album that, with of course an explosive link twist, still captured the essence of Cash’s legend that seeped through Mike’s vocals.
The unforgettably powerful aspect of this tour is not just a nostalgic trip back to Bad Religion’s early days touring with Social Distortion, but also the fact that both frontmen, Greg Graffin and Mike Ness, share such iconic individual vocals that never alter in any way throughout the years, whether they’re listened through records, or heard live. Such a gig will surely not be forgotten anytime soon, and seeing these two legendary bands once more would be, if I can put this explicitly, an absolute fucking delight.