Thursday, November 4, 2010

Concert Review: Social Distortion with Lucero and Frank Turner, October 23, Toronto

There is a serious lack of good, mid-sized music venues in Toronto. The last time I was at the Kool Haus was in 2007 for a Kings of Leon show, back before KOL started sucking. Kool Haus is a big, hollow, characterless venue that has a capacity of about 2500. It takes forever to get a freakin' beer there. But when Frank Turner, Lucero, and Social Distortion are in town, I suck it up and head to the not-so-cool Kool Haus.

I had a hard time getting tickets for this show, but fortunately, I know people who know people, and my main woman Rad Jen got us on the freakin' guest list, meaning I had $50 extra bucks to spend on beer! Rad Jen RULES! So on this rainy, crappy Saturday, October 23, not only did I get to see three killer bands, but I also got to get loaded.

Frank Turner is an up-and-coming folk/punk singer form Winchester, England. I've been following his music for the last year and a half or so. His 2008 album Love Ire & Song is really good. He reminds me of Billy Bragg meets Tim Barry, but he doesn't preach at you like Bragg does, and he isn't as angry as Barry. Turner and his band put on a terrific eight song mini-set that I really enjoyed. His band was fantastic, especially the drummer, who also sang backup. Turner talked about his musical influences such as Black Flag, Minor Threat, and, of course, Social Distortion. He got the small opening crowd to sing along, and screamed, "I love Toronto!" The only thing that I regret is that I did not attend his full set at the Horseshoe the previous evening. When I chatted with him later, he told me that the Horseshoe show was crazy, and that he was still hungover from the previous night. That's my kind of rockstar!

Frank Turner mini-setlist
1. Eulogy to Freddy Mercury
2. Poetry of the Deed.mp3
Buy: Poetry of the Deed (2009)
3. Try This at Home
4. Reasons Not to Be an Idiot
5. I Still Believe
6. Love Ire and Song
7. The Road
8. Photosynthesis

I've been a fan of Lucero for years. As Rad Jen commented, "Lucero is another band who I have watched turn gray." I saw Lucero last year when they were touring with their horn section. For their opening slot for Social D., they traveled with the full band without horns, but with keyboards and pedal steel. With the little time they had, they essentially played a "greatest hits" set which spanned four albums from 2002 to 2009. Lead singer Ben Nichols sounded really good; rumor has it that he just quit smoking, and his voice is better for it. Nichols is one of the more charismatic front men in music today, using the requisite amount of cursing, commenting, "How about Frank motherfuckin' Turner? Goddamn that boy's good!" I love Rick Steff on keyboards. Very few people do rock piano anymore, but Steff excels at it. The piano parts on 2006's Rebels Rogues & Sworn Brothers made the album for me. Steff played the horn parts of the newer tunes on the keyboards ("Devil and Maggie," "Goodbye Again"), which gave the songs an unusual, but not unpleasant, twist. Todd Beene (who also plays in Glossary, another killer band) on pedal steel really makes the band. I was chatting with Nichols later and I told him that his next album needs more pedal steel. He replied, "I completely agree." In a recent video on Spin's website Nichol's commented that he would like to do an acoustic album. How sweet would a Lucero acoustic album be? Especially if it was full of steel guitars.

Lucero mini-setlist
1. The Devil And Maggie Chascarillo
2. Nights Like These
3. Bikeriders
4. Slow Dancing
5. Tonight Ain't Gonna be Good
6. Kiss the Bottle (Jawbreaker cover)
7. Goodbye Again.mp3
Buy: 1372 Overton Park (2009)
8. Raising Hell
9. Last Night in Town
10. Nobody's Darlins
11. Tears Don't Matter Much

By the time Social Distortion took the stage, Kool Haus was packed to the gills. Rad Jen and I were way up front for Frank Turner and Lucero, but we moved to the back for Social D., lest we get our asses kicked by the serious punk rockers. The downside of being in back is that I had to put my glasses on so I could see the stage (I'm old and vain). The upside is that we got to watch security haul out the wasted sluts! Not that we weren't wasted, but we seasoned drinkers can at least hold our liquor.

Social D. did everything you expected them to do, and even introduced a few new songs from their forthcoming album Hard Times And Nursery Rhymes which is scheduled to be released in January 2011. One new track called "Bakersfield" is essentially about the fact that Bakersfield, California, sucks. They also did a "greatest hits" style of set, including songs from the late 80s/early 90s which I listened to when I was in high school. My favorite Social D. song, "Ball and Chain," was played fairly slowly, which made it sound not so good to me. And it didn't seem that way just because I was drunk. The reviewer at Chartattack verified this observation, although he was more enthusiastic about the song (and the show) than I was. Most of the audience was there to see Social D., and Social D. was very well received and whipped the audience into an rock and roll frenzy and so on, but I have to admit that I enjoyed the two opening acts more so than the headliner. Even in my beer-induced haze, Social D. was rather predictable. Maybe I would have liked the show more if Social D. had played at a venue besides the Kool Haus.

Social Distortion Set List
1. The Creeps
2. Another State Of Mind
3. Mommy's Little Monster.mp3
Buy: Mommy's Little Monster (1989)
4. Sick Boys
5. Don't Drag Me Down
6. I Was Wrong
7. Bye Bye Baby
8. Still Alive
9. Ball and Chain
10. Through These Eyes
11. Bakersfield
12. King of Fools
13. When She Begins
14. Making Believe (Jimmy Work cover)

15. So Far Away
16. Prison Bound.mp3
Buy: Prison Bound (1988)
17. Down Here (With the Rest of Us)
18. Ring Of Fire (Johnny Cash cover)


jim said...

Wow! This review and the comments like "Lucero is another band i've watched turn grey" and oh yeah Ben Nicholls agrees that Lucero should have more pedal steel is why i left the pompous overbearing wretches in Ontario.

Anonymous said...

Yo Jim... Where is this pompous-overbearing-wretch free zone that you've relocated to? As a pompous overbearing wretch who has, in fact, watched this band I love age as much as I have over the last 8 years I've been going to their shows, I am just kind of curious. I've actually made friends at Lucero shows in Toronto, Austin,Buffalo and it can't be any of those towns, can it?

Rad Jen

Anonymous said...

Just saw Social D in Austin last night and yes - every single song was played almost in half time and Mike Ness sounded absolutely shitfaced. What a letdown for a concert that I've enjoyed so much in the past.