Social Distortion/Grade 2/Lovebreakers –
O2 Ritz, Manchester, Wednesday 13th July, 2022
It’s a Wednesday night, school night, for many that would be enough to put them off. However, this particular evening, everyone’s out! It’s been what feels like forever since this show was first booked and now it’s finally here!
It’s a beautiful sunny evening in Manchester and we (Myself and Glenn) are making our way over to the Ritz 02, stellar venue with a tremendous pedigree. Doors at 7, and you know the score, doors open and you just never know when the first band is gonna be on, could have been playing twenty minutes before the doors – certainly feels like that sometimes or, (what feels like) hours after.
But, hey ho lets see. We make our way over and so did Everybody else, the line from the front door of the Ritz spread the near enough full length of the street, we all there to see one and only one band that night, Social Distortion, and Hell, no one was going to miss it. It’s been seven long years since Social D have graced us with their presence, and by hook or by crook we were ready for it.
In and stood promptly with beer in hand as fast as we can be, eagerly awaiting the night to begin, first up, Lovebreakers. They hit the stage promptly at 19:30, and these guys knew the business. Simple, catchy, infectious, Social D meets Green Day.
Even though they were on early they played to a decent crowd, which is brilliant as they were well worth seeing. Then proceeds to rip into a tremendous cover of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers 'Wreck Me' - nice touch, lads!.
Into their final song, which had the audience nicely head bobbing along, no one was bored, all were with them and rightly so, second chorus, stop! Jack (frontman) steps up and shouts ‘scream with me!’ you sexy beast you! Straight back in, and done.
Brilliant stuff lads, the next band have some big shoes to fill after that. …And boy did they ever!
Grade 2 enter the stage prompt at 20:15. No time was wasted, and in like a knife we’re in! To say they had some big shoes to fill was right, but to say they filled them and then some would be an understatement: they removed the shoes, burnt them and proceed to run barefoot through glass!
These guys were on fire and just what the doctor ordered. Some proper old school Savna’ British punk, old-school, harsh, infectious and true. The crowd were instantly with them, and rightly so! Third song in and now the slamming starts: first one, then two , three and four guys - the pit’s trying to open, but not enough to go full throttle, (I obviously joined in myself, it would have been rude not to).
For the next half an hour they took us on a nail biting old school punk ride straight out the Isle of Wight where they came from. It's nice to hear and learn of a band from so far away. At this point they spoke to the crowd to thank them for their hospitality and to give a shout out to Loverbreakers and Social D, for which the crowd obviously raved with enthusiasm.
They took a moment to thank everyone concerned and state that without all the people behind the scenes none of this could/would happen. It’s a nice sentiment since not enough people offer thanks where its necessary and take for granted what they have.
They also stated that they rehearsed in a church for a number of years and that this was God’s very own music (nice). If these chaps keep rolling like this they’re going far very fast. Brilliant! I am also, loving the backdrop: A very clear homage to the 'Slade Alive' Album. I see ya!
And now, Social Distortion!
The atmosphere’s electric, and you can feel it! 21:15 rolls round and sharp as a knife, the introduction track plays: The Rolling Stones 'Gimme Shelter'.
Setting the tone for what’s to come, the band enter the stage while it plays and the crowd roars (as they damn well should). They waste no time and break into 'Road Zombie', the opening track from their last release ('Hard Times And Nursery Rhymes').
They keep looping the same section, it’s like clockwork, but no Mike??? Then out the shadows, like a bandit from an old gangster movie he emerges, bandanna covered face like he’s abut rob a train. His guitar tech waiting on the stage amidst the chaos of the crowd with his trusty Gold Top Gibson Orange County Les Paul. The roar of the crowd erupts once again! Louder and without missing a beat he is straight into where he should be, and the band are off, full speed ahead!
The crowd are with them and they are with us. All are dancing to the same tune, into 'Bad Luck', thumping along and everyone is singing. Then it got better third song, 'Reach For The Sky'. That’s it, I’m off, at which time I was at the back of the room with the sound desk just to get a total wide eyed view of it all, but now I must be with my fellow moshers.
From here on out it was hard to tell when Mike was singing and when it was the crowd. The classics kept rolling and pummelling through and we are now into 'Bye, Bye Baby' followed by 'She’s A Knockout', 'Sick Boys' & 'Wicked Game'. It's just stunning so far, making it clear the whole time that they are so happy to be back here. We then we went up a notch; again with 'Machine Gun Blues'. It had to be in the set, without question but good god, did the crowd lose it? Did they ever – me included!
So, how do we top this? Well lets break out the tracks that can only be considered classic. We are now 'Prison Bound' where we 'Gotta Know The Rules'. Then up comes the neo-classic 'California Hustle' and 'Flow'. The pit never rested even during the more subtle tracks since the continues to be atmosphere electric. We were even treated to a new track! After so long a new track which means only one thing: a new album is due to be recorded in October!
That aside, the set kept on banging with the same ferocity it started with. This included Mike even exclaiming his love of British sitcom, 'Porridge', to which they then had to play the theme tune. The pit began bouncing but as soon as it started it was over - of course they had to play it again, to which all us in the pit thoroughly rejoiced.
We are round to the pre-encore section of the evening, and of course there was much more to be said. They proceed into the usual walk off with cheers that ensued, and continued. Then as we all expected, came back onto the stage. The crowd then cheers and we get the usual yada yada from them.
What more could we want... 'Don’t Drag Me Down!' The sheer eruption which followed was like a football stadium of fans chanting along which was enough to raise the dead. It truly was a great encore with several tracks and what was the final track? Well there could only be one: That Johnny Cash classic, 'Ring Of Fire'.
The evening was electric, the crowd was tremendous and only there for one reason which was Social Distortion who delivered the goods in abundance. It was more than we could have ever asked for. I speak for everyone in that room: We cannot wait for the next time!
Five out of Five stars! Do it again, now!
Review By Nic Rudd
(Drummer of Sour Tusk/Doomsday Outlaw/Asomvel)
Photographs By Glenn Milligan