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Live Review: Bad Religion and Social Distortion at Pier 17 –

Autor: mxdwn Music

Dylan Landay May 7th, 2024 – 2:00 PM
Live Review: Bad Religion and Social Distortion at Pier 17

On this balmy May the 4th (Star Wars pun intended), the force of punk was with the audience at Pier 17 in New York City as Bad Religion and Social Distortion graced the stage. The crowd, while a bit older, was looking to reclaim the feeling of rebellion and youth reminiscing past shows and experiences, amongst themselves. Pier 17 is on a rooftop with an amazing backdrop of the Williamsburg bridge which has an American flag perched upon it, waving in the wind. The flag felt appropriate for these old-school punk rockers — an emphatic symbol to the genre’s rebellious counter culture that felt like an allusion to the United States being the rebellious kid pulling away from England. 

Bad Religion, who have been together for almost 45 years, still hold the same energy and message they originally set out with. Bad Religion entered the stage at 7:15 p.m. and immediately broke into “The Defense.” The venue was clammy with an overcast windy night on a New York roof and started to generate heat as the crowd gathered together closer and closer. The earliness of the show time did not go unnoticed by the fans, but was also not something they complained about. While still not rumbustious, the opening chords of “Los Angeles Is Burning” reverberated through the venue, setting the tone for the evening ahead. 

As the song ended people continued to squeeze together tightly, to the point one felt like a sardine in a can. While many people and crowds would object to this, the punk world thrives and aims for this connectivity. As “Only Rain” began to ring out, a pit started to form slowly but surely. One noticeable thing was the lack of phones being out. The crowd was present and hanging off the energy of the band. 

As  “Stranger Than Fiction,” and “Fuck You” played the pit opened. While most pits have a bad reputation, Bad Religions was meant to build the crowd up, not to tear its members down. Songs like “Wrong Way Kids” and “Struck a Nerve” had the crowd singing along at the top of their lungs. The crowd in full swing started to bounce around like pinballs. To show the diversity of the show a man in a Nouche Labre mask and a large man with his small child on his shoulders joined the playful enticing pit. 

“Anesthesia” was a total change of pace, and somehow even more intense. That hushed, beautiful moment in the middle of all that chaos…that’s Bad Religion’s range right there. But, they wouldn’t ever leave it at that —  cut to them slamming out “Come Join Us” and “I Want to Conquer The World” like it was their first-ever gig. 

The hits just kept coming. “21st Century (Digital Boy),” “New Dark Ages,” “Man With a Mission,” and Greg Graffin’s voice just cutting through the noise on “Do What You Want.” Bad Religion then shifted gears with a string of introspective anthems. “Dearly Beloved” set a somber tone, its lyrics confronting mortality and the fleeting nature of existence. The urgency in “Infected” built upon this, a blistering commentary on society’s ills. “Skyscraper” echoed this sentiment, its driving beat reflecting the struggle against oppressive systems. Yet, a glimmer of hope flickered in “We’re Only Gonna Die,” offering a defiant acceptance of life’s ultimate end. With “Generator” and “Sorrow,” the band delivered two of their most powerful classics, a raw emotional outpouring met with cathartic release from the crowd.  The melancholic beauty of “You” capped off this segment, leaving the audience contemplating the complexities of the human condition. Then, with a jolt of signature Bad Religion defiance, “American Jesus” slammed the door shut. A scathing critique of religious hypocrisy that left a lasting impression.

After a quick intermission, Social Distortion burst on stage as “Bad to the Bone” played on the speakers. After a quick hello, the band kicked off their set with “Bad Luck.” The crowd who was visibly exhausted from the previous band started to ramp up their energy again. “Through These Eyes” and “I Wasn’t Born to Follow” were next on the set. The crowd at this point had returned to the original rowdiness they broke out for Bad Religion. Showing the wholesomeness of the show and the people who engaged in it — a man with a child who was 6-years-old and dressed in matching flannel as his father joined the rowdy crowd. The father, protecting his son from fans flung around. When asked after the show about bringing his children to the show he said “It’s grandfathers, our dad’s started it. They gave it to us and we gave it to our kids.”

Before breaking into “Tonight,” the lead singer Mike, made notice of the crowd echoing a similar sentiment to the father with his children saying “We have the old timers and the youngsters, you can’t market that shit.” While Philadelphia is known as the city of love, New York City took that title for the night. As “Tonight” played, a man who was eager to join the pit put down his full beer to hop in with full zealousness as a stranger guarded it for him. Upon his return, the beer was still full and unspilled. Before playing “Cold Feelings” Mike made notice of the “100 people on the Brooklyn Bridge watching from behind.” This showing how sought out this sold out shows tickets were. 

Playing “Mommy’s Little Monster,” Social Distortion had the audience in their palms as they ripped through classics like “The Creeps” and “Hour of Darkness,” leaving no doubt as to why they’re considered pioneers of the punk rock scene.

As the night went on, the band showcased their versatility and range with tracks like “1945” and “Over You,” each song dripping with the kind of gritty honesty that has endeared them to fans for decades. A touching moment came when frontman Mike Ness invited his son Julian Ness to join them on stage for “Warn Me,” the two sharing a powerful musical connection that resonated with everyone in attendance.

Hits like “Reach for the Sky” and “Ball and Chain” had the crowd singing along at the top of their lungs, while “Born to Kill” showcased the band’s signature blend of punk attitude and rock ‘n’ roll swagger. A standout moment of the evening came with their rendition of Merle Kilgore’s classic “Ring of Fire,” a hauntingly beautiful tribute that left the audience spellbound.

Bad Religion Setlist 

  1. The Defense
  2. Los Angeles Is Burning
  3. Only Rain
  4. Stranger Than Fiction
  5. Fuck You
  6. Wrong Way Kids
  7. Struck a Nerve
  8. Anesthesia
  9. Come Join Us
  10. I Want to Conquer the World
  11. 21st Century (Digital Boy)
  12. New Dark Ages
  13. Man With a Mission
  14. Do What You Want
  15. Dearly Beloved
  16. Infected
  17. Skyscraper
  18. We’re Only Gonna Die
  19. Generator
  20. Sorrow
  21.  You
  22.  American Jesus

Social Distortion Setlist 

  1. Bad Luck
  2. Through These Eyes
  3. I Wasn’t Born to Follow
  4. Tonight
  5. Cold Feelings
  6. Mommy’s Little Monster
  7. The Creeps
  8. Hour of Darkness
  9. 1945
  10. Over You
  11. Warn Me (Joined by son Julian Ness on guitar)
  12. Reach for the Sky
  13. Ball and Chain
  14. Born to Kill
  15. Ring of Fire (Merle Kilgore cover)

Photo Credit: Raymond Flotat

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