Even before he covers one of The Man in Black’s tunes, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out Mike Ness is a huge Johnny Cash fan. The blue-collar, common-man attitude is apparent in his references to being “Born to Lose” and to the incarcerated and down and out. One could make the argument he is this generation’s Johnny Cash, and like that icon of American music, he may have mellowed in some ways…but he definitely gets better with age.
When Social Distortion took the stage for the first of two shows here in Denver at the Fillmore October 15, Ness didn’t do the whole man-in-black or greaser image one has come to expect from this band who has always played a sort of rockabilly-influenced punk. Most of his tattoos were covered, and the hair on his slightly receding hairline just slicked back. In his crisp white shirt, suspenders, and loose cut pants, he almost looked like a carney from the 30s depression era in his simplicity.
The real punks, the ones who stand the test of time, don’t have to dress the part or show off heavy tattoos – it goes way beyond skin deep for Ness and the rest of Social Distortion. And they proved that once again before a packed house.
If you are any kind of Social Distortion fan, you are bound to have missed one of your favorites from the set Friday night. “Cold Feelings” was absent from the set list, but it was still full of favorites from the bands’ years: “I Was Wrong,” “So Far Away,” “Bye Bye Baby,” “Footprints,” “Story of My Life,” “Through These Eyes,” “Ball and Chain,” “Hour of Darkness,” “Machine Gun Blues,” “King of Fools,” and “Still Alive,” amongst others.
Old punks don’t always fade away…sometimes they keep showing the young ones how it’s done.