First Avenue remains this area’s quintessential rock club, especially when the bands onstage can provide that tuning-fork splendor that escalates the intensity and immediacy of their visceral sound without sacrificing too much of the intimacy that listening to the songs on the headphones delivered. A couple of those bands team up at the club Tuesday for a sold-out show that should suffuse the audience with rock endorphins.
My respect for the band Lucero has been well documented on this site here and here within the past year alone, which demonstrates how relentlessly the rootsy, Stone-sy rockers cultivate their fans the old-fashioned way, by nonstop touring. Well, they’re at it again, becoming arguably the year’s best opening act for kindred spirits Social Distortion.
No doubt Lucero’s appearance is their tip of the cap to the lasting impact and influence of Social Distortion. Led by singer-songwriter-frontman Mike Ness, who was inspired by the punk-rockers of the late 70s, SD coalesced within the hardcore crucible of the LA scene in the mid-’80s, refusing to compromise between snarls and hooks and defining a template that would later be followed by other aggressive tunesmiths such as The Offspring, Rancid, and, eventually, Green Day.
Ness and his band were waylaid by his heroin addiction after their first disc, and only began to broaden their sound in a more classic-rock (but still roaring) manner with their eponymous 1990 release on the major label Epic. Twenty years later, Ness is touring behind Social Distortion songs again, despite having not released any new material with the band since 2004’s “Sex, Love and Rock ‘N’ Roll” (which itself was SD’s first new material in eight years), although a few new tunes have been sprinkled into the set list. Part of the delay has been Ness preferring to concentrate on quieter work under his own name, a maturity that has crept into Social Distortion performances as well. But the influential legacy of the band and the timeless mix of crunching chords and confessional lyrics — a winning formula from the Stones to the Replacements to Green Day and beyond — made this an appropriately sold-out show in an ideal venue for the Twin Cities gig.
Here they are reprising their 1990 cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.”
Social Distortion, with Lucero opening, at First Avenue, Tuesday night, Oct. 19; doors open at 7 p.m.; tickets are $30, but are sold out.