Show Review: 537

Sunday Nighters, keeping the weekend going… This was my tenth Social D show since I started seeing them in 2002, I guess you can say I’m part of the “new school” or at least somewhere in between, nevertheless a faithful follower and appreciative fan of their music and Mike’s career. I had never been to the Starland Ballroom before, as I usually ventured into NYC to venues like Roseland Ballroom and Irving Plaza to watch Mike and the boys light it up. The November 4th date at Roseland was not announced when I bought my tickets months earlier. I emphatically remember my first Social D show in the city, front row up against the rail, anxiously waiting to see my rock ‘n’ roll hero up close for the first time…and the moment Mike emerged out of the darkness on stage, sporting a five-o’clock shadow and gun-sliggin’ his ‘Orange County’ Les Paul Deluxe around his back with this possessed, rabid, wolf-like grin in his navy Dickies work shirt and half-brim beret. He didn’t say one word before opening up with ‘Ring of Fire’ and setting the place ablaze from there… unforgettable. Now August 1st, 2010, a Sunday night in blue collar Sayreville, NJ. I think highly of the Starland for bands like Social D. Although the stage could be a little higher, it provided an intimate club scene with the ambiance of a punk rock show, supporting the acoustics with modern technology. Mike was wearing a green t-shirt, with “Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office” emblazoned in cream lettering, supporting the Jersey crowd with a souvenir he most likely picked-up earlier that day at the Englishtown Flea Market. He also mentioned bad eats at a Mexican joint in Red Bank…at least he’s gaining local knowledge. Highlights from the show included; the opening number, an aggressive, adrenaline-pumping instrumental (minus the infamous warning sirens from previous tours) of ‘Road Zombie’, with Mike’s guitar roaring in a deep, dirty sweet tone as he stared down the crowd of sick boys and girls amongst the Sunday nighters; the second track, ‘Bye Bye Baby’ was a treat off the ‘Somewhere Between’ album with Mike’s compassionate growling coming across very smooth and monitoring the chord progression; I think Danny McGough’s intro on the keys for ‘Under My Thumb’ is the best part of the song – and would love to just single out the piano and hear that version, but the intro was more “electric” than in previous live shows as it was overshadowed by the buzzing guitars; ‘Bad Luck’ was very good and got really quiet when Mike sang the third verse, but I would have loved to see Mike pull out the solo he did with Bruce Springsteen when the E Street band covered it at a show in LA circa April ’09; my first time ever seeing ‘Don’t Drag Me Down’ live was memorable with Mike adding a few more tweaks in that killer solo (I can’t believe they never played that song live in the ten shows I’ve seen); ‘Reach for the Sky’ had a nice, new brief intro that set the tone for the hit track off their latest (yet 6 years old) studio album ‘Sex, Love’; ‘Highway 101’ is one of my all-time favorite Social D songs and did not let down at all – second verse has some great lyrics and the Hammond B-3 provided great texture in the fills; I’ve seen plenty of ‘Still Alive’ videos on YouTube and admire the new song so much more after seeing it performed live – if this song is any indication of the what new album (Mike says coming out in November…won’t hold my breathe on it) will sound like, then I’m even more excited…if that’s even possible. I was hoping (and expecting) to hear more new material than ‘Still Alive’, but giving that the drummer had just joined weeks prior to the tour, and the new album hasn’t been release nor has a confirmed working title (some say ‘Hard Times & Nursery Rhymes’ others say ‘Pain, Death & Love Lost’), the setlist sufficed. Hopefully ‘Bakersfield’, ‘Can’t Take it With You’, and ‘Diamond In The Rough’ will be played at the November 4th show when they come back around to the NY Metropolitan area again. All in all, Mike and Social D played a tight set and covered most of their material and albums, if not predictable at times, with the standards appearing in the meat of the setlist. The absence of ‘Story of my Life’ was tough to take and I would have really liked to have seen ‘Footprints on my Ceiling’ in the encore. Anyone call tell that they’re extremely focused and very much in synch with what they’re playing. The band has grown dramatically in quality and complexity of their musical arrangements from the now ten-year relationship between Mike & Johnny 2 Bags and addition of Danny McGough’s vintage Hammond B-3. I guess I’ll have to go to one of the shows during their December run in Orange County to hear more of the “rare” tracks performed live…because I have seen them pop-up on youtube. One day, I’m sure I’ll see them play ‘Dear Lover’, ‘So Far Away’ & ‘Born to Lose’ live. …and I did make it into work on Monday…dragging, but made it.