For any longtime Social Distortion fans, the experience of seeing that band’s singer-songwriter-guitarist Mike Ness as a solo artist is no longer a radical departure. Performing at the Coach House on Tuesday night, Dec. 9, 2008 — his second of six shows this month at the San Juan Capistrano venue — with a strong backing band featuring most of Social D, Ness delivered an 80-minute set once again weighted heavily on material from his two 1999 solo releases, "Cheating at Solitaire" and "Under the Influences."
Yet, despite covering songs by Bob Dylan, Hank Williams and Johnny Cash (a sing-along for “Ring of Fire” kicked off the encore), Ness played his Gibson Les Paul with almost as much ferocity as he does at a summertime Hootenanny fest fronting his other band. The intimacy of the Coach House, and the rare sight of a large crowd sitting (as opposed to standing or slamming in a mosh pit), gave the show a surreal feel. He also exchanged small talk with the audience providing additional magic to the night.
Throughout the performance, Ness’ own tunes stood up as well as his remakes, whether it was the Smithereens-style riff-rock attack of “Misery Loves Company” or a soaring “Reach for the Sky” or a honky-tonk version of “Ball and Chain.”
Long-running Anaheim act Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys kicked off the evening with a 45-minute set of authentic, infectious American roots music. Focusing on the band’s latest album, "Turntable Matinee," the quartet blazed through a mix of tunes anchored in rockabilly, Western swing and traditional country. The spirit of Buddy Holly lives in the beautiful tenor of Robert Williams (whose stage moniker is Big Sandy) and songs such as “The Great State of Misery” and the uptempo “Love That Man.”
Mike Ness' main set: Company C / All I Can Do Is Cry / Let the Jukebox Keep on Playing / Ballad of a Lonely Man/ Cheating at Solitaire / Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright / The Devil in Miss Jones / Rest of Our Lives / You Win Again / Dope Fiend Blues / Misery Loves Company / Crime Don’t Pay / Ball and Chain
Encore: Ring of Fire/ Reach for the Sky / I Think I’ll Stay / I Fought the Law