Social Distortion & The Bones Live @ O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire, London (UK) - 8th July 2009

Now, Social Distortion in London are already the event of the year to me, a day I've been looking forward to since I last saw them in LA four years ago, but having The Bones for support is just being spoilt! I get to Shepherd's Bush well in advance, still I manage to miss Durango Riot thanks to a mix up with photo passes. Can't all be perfect, can it?

The Bones take stage, and rumours about how good these guys are live are all justified. The music is good, their presence is the result of ten years of touring and a clear passion for rock'n'roll, and I find it hard to believe that they're still so little known after four full length albums. Then again, I don't like mainstream and what it does to people, and I quite enjoy the bond Beef and Boner (yes, you read that right, they would be the two lead singers) create with the audience and with us photographers. "Screwed blued and tattooed" from their first album seems to be a major crowd pleaser, but my favourite has to be "Gasoline business", so catchy you're sure you've heard it before and so unique it sticks in your mind like superglue after the first listen. So, last album was "Burnout Boulevard" in 2007, what's happening now? Hey there in Sweden, if anyone from The Bones' camp can hear me, we would love to hear from you!

And it's time for Social Distortion. I sneaked at the set list and I know they're opening with "The Creeps". For those of you who haven't been lucky enough to see Social D live, the band changes set list pretty much at every tour, having the discography to back it up. They're not promoting any new album, in fact the last one was "Sex Love and Rock'n'Roll" in 2004, and before that "White Light White Heat White Trash" in 1996. Mike Ness & Co only record an album if they have enough songs really worth recording, so if you see any Social Distortion album at your record store feel free to trust the cover, it's definitely 14 quid well spent.

Mike Ness has grown a beard, he's definitely ageing but in a good way; the lines on his face talk about experience, ups and downs and coming out on the other side wiser and stronger. Guitar on his knees, a fedora hat hiding his eyes, it takes centre stage in front of a two-thousand-strong crowd like it's the most natural thing in the world, making it look no different from when he started playing for a few punk rockers in Orange County. I like to believe he still feels like that someway.

Young Atom Willard (Rocket from the Crypt, Offspring) replaced Charlie Quintana on drums after an amicable split, a welcome injection of fresh energy. Social Distortion sound rough, smoky, fast, a punk celebration on a wooden floor soaked in beer. Early classics like "Mommy's Little Monster", "Ball and Chain" and "Prison Bound" mix with more recent masterpieces like "Reach for the sky" and "Nickels and Dimes" and less famous tracks like "Won't run no more" and "Can't take it with you". Time for thoughts and singalong comes from the beautiful "Sometimes I do" and it's time for dancing with Johnny Cash's "Ring of fire". The encore starts with a tribute to Hank Williams, "Alone and forsaken" and finishes with a new single, "Still alive", another fantastic piece from Social Distortion which unfortunately (I looked everywhere as soon as I got home...) is not yet available. Stay tuned!

Mike Ness comes out for the last time, asks if there's any dreamer in the audience; they're the ones who are going to make it, he says. It's the "Story of my life", his life, mine, ours, all two thousand of us singing tonight about good times that come and go and never last long enough, and wondering when they will come back. I just hope it won't be another four years. However, be it four or even ten, I will be waiting.

by Cristina Massei

Visit the Social Distortion Website

Visit the Bones Website