Friday Night: Social Distortion at House of Blues

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Social Distortion House of Blues May 4, 2012

Be sure to check out our slick slideshow from Social D Friday night.

"If it weren't for good black music, there wouldn't be any good white music," Social Distortion's Mike Ness told Friday's House of Blues crowd. "We'd all still be sitting on the porch, blowing over an empty jug and trying to make a decent sound."

The blues, without a doubt, have been a big influence on Social Distortion's iconic brand of punk-infused rock and roll. And the blues, Ness reminded the crowd, also had a big influence on country music back in the '40s. And it was this kind of genre-bending that paved the way for groups like them.

Friday night, at five minutes past 10 p.m., the lights dimmed, the crowd roared and the curtains in front of the stage at House of Blues Houston were pulled aside as the California-based four-piece that is Social Distortion emerged onstage. "No Sleep Til Brooklyn" blared on the speakers overhead.

While the band never made mention of it, we can only assume that was Social D's way of paying reverence to B-Boys co-founder Adam "MCA" Yauch, who died Friday morning after a three-year battle with cancer.

Dressed in a black button-down, black slacks and a black fedora, adorned with white suspenders and white leather shoes, Ness strode toward the front of the stage, where his microphone awaited him, as the crowd cheered.

He looked like a gangster, circa 1934.

Launching into their set with "Bad Luck" off 1992's Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell, the punk rockers set the tone for their 90-minute set with a tune filled with references to gambling, nasty dispositions, rock and roll, the blues and even church.

Quite the well-rounded bunch.

Since 1978, with a few notable hiatuses in the mix, Social D have been keeping crowds moving and moshing to their signature brand of California-born punk. Being that Ness is the sole original member still in the group, perhaps it's a more apt description to call it his signature sound.

Friday night, the fans were... present and ready to party.

Only four songs in, during "Sick Boy," a fight broke out in the crowd, barely two feet away from us. Two grown men, if we can give them that much credit, both irritated and perhaps inebriated, began throwing their fists at one another as the crowd around them quickly separated.

Beer was spilled everywhere, and the more concert-savvy fans took their opportunity to shove themselves closer to the stage as the two men were pulled away from one another. Almost immediately after the altercation, one of them began crowd-surfing toward the stage. That's one way to leave the scene of a crime, we suppose.

After an anti-drug PSA of sorts (which, judging from the smirking band members and chuckling fans, we're guessing was kind of tongue in cheek), Social D broke out into "Nickels and Dimes," warning the youngsters in the crowd to learn from the older men's mistakes and stay away from lives filled with drugs and violence.

The night wasn't without its tender moments, though. During "Let the Jukebox Keep Playing," a couple behind us started dancing. While some have called Ness's music a tad one-note and a bit too straightforward, its simplicity isn't without its nuances.

There was no encore, but after an hour and 45 minutes of nonstop rock and roll, while we would have been happy to hear it, the crowd was plenty satisfied.

Word is that these punk rockers have another album in the works for fans. And judging from Friday night's sold-out show, their eighth studio album will sell even better than their last, Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, which is their highest-debuting LP to date.

Personal Bias: I'm not exactly a geezer, but I haven't left a concert that sore in quite some time. Thanks for making me feel like a teenager again, Social D.

Overheard in the Crowd: "Why are all the people crowd-surfing fat?"

Random Notebook Dump: A snippet from Social Distortion's Web site we found after the show:

Although our paths never crossed, we've always had great respect for the Beastie Boys. Adam Yauch was a pioneer and a visionary who helped shape the world of music as we know it today. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Adam's family and friends. You'll be missed, but never forgotten.

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