By Andrew Bansal
(photos by Brad Worsham)
February 22nd 2017, The Observatory Orange County, Santa Ana CA: Not that they ever need a reason to go on tour besides the unwavering urge to do what they do best, Southern California crossover thrash/hardcore punk/skate punk legends Suicidal Tendencies released their 12th full-length studio album ‘World Gone Mad’ in September 2016 and in support of the record, they started a U.S. headline tour with opening acts Crowbar and Havok last night, at home with a sold-out show at The Observatory Orange County in Santa Ana CA. ST fans from LA, OC and surrounding areas gathered in massive numbers, expecting nothing less than the absolute best from the band, and it is safe to state that not a single person went home disappointed.
The official capacity of The Observatory’s main concert hall is stated differently by various news sources but can be estimated at around 950, and this maximum capacity became the minimum occupancy on this occasion because there were at least that many people here for this show. It was as packed as this venue has ever been. The excitement was palpable, fans that had never seen the band live were understandably eager to finally do so, but even those that had experienced past ST live shows and knew what to expect were anticipating something special here.
Parking was a strenuous chore for many ticket holders, as hundreds of cars were made to line up in only a single queue, and then of course there were long queues to pick up tickets and rigorous security checks before entering. Then came the opening acts, which only the early birds were able to catch as most were busy trying to park. Some sections of the crowd enjoyed these openers, some didn’t, and some were indifferent. After all, this was all about ST. The booze was flowing through all the bars, and spirits were high. A few minutes past 10 PM, the lights went out and Suicidal Tendencies arrived. “Chaos” would be an understated description of what ensued.
As if frontman Mike Muir and his band mates needed any more convincing that you can’t bring them down, they began the 16-song, 90-plus minute set in the best way they possibly could have, with ‘You Can’t Bring Me Down’. They played a song called ‘Clap Like Ozzy’ off of the latest album early on in the show and then started diving into their back catalog. Muir delivered a truly empowering speech before playing ‘Freedumb’, “It doesn’t matter who is in power, because you are ones in power”, he said, such simple words but not said nearly often enough. The stellar musicianship of his band and his own performance on vocals are obviously major factors in ST’s on-stage success, but Mike Muir knows how to pump up crowds without getting political, and also steering clear of the antagonistic, anti-establishment tones invariably carried by punk-infused bands, as Muir and ST convey a very positive and uplifting message instead, with both the lyrics and speeches.
After songs like ‘Trip at the Brain and ‘War Inside My Head’ got the fans moshing, raging, crowd-surfing and singing with all their energy, The Observatory was sent into absolute and total delirium, because Mike Muir invited people to join the band on stage, as many as they could fit up there, and at least 50 fans somehow made their way to the stage through the jam-packed venue. Mike Muir jumped up on the drum riser, the rest of the band miraculously still maintained their positions and their gear stayed in working condition long enough to play ‘Possessed to Skate’. Of course, there is always that one asshole who gets up only to take ultra-low-quality cellphone videos and push stage divers back onto the stage, but most participants were having a blast, and we got to witness a sight only unique to ST shows, a mosh pit on stage while the band still continued to play. Memories of Motörboat 2015 came flashing back to mind, where the makeshift stage was bouncing with the crowd, but The Observatory was far better equipped to cope with this anomaly. It took more than five minutes to clear the stage and fix the equipment after the song ended, but it was all part of the show, and this moment was surely one of the highlights of the evening.
The set just went from strength to strength and there was no dull moment whatsoever, as fans sung along to classic ST tunes like ‘Subliminal’, ‘I Saw Your Mommy’, ‘Institutionalized’, and ‘Cyco Vision’, for which Muir instigated a “wall of death”. Mosh pits broke out just about everywhere, not just in the actual “pit” section closest to the stage, but also in the upper tiers, and based upon observation and experience of thousands of shows, it’s clear that no band is better at getting the mosh pit going. Decorated by chants of “S … T!” ringing loudly across the venue, the band ended with ‘Pledge Your Allegiance’, but then of course came out for an encore.
Besides singing his parts and delivering his speeches, Mike Muir also runs quite a marathon on stage every night, as he completes hundreds of sprints from one side of the stage to the other, which goes a long way in engaging every single member of the audience and enticing so much crowd-surfing and stage-diving. Importantly, this band welcomes it, and handles it better than anyone, as one would rarely, if ever, see a member of ST upset or angry at a fan for stepping on stage.
Performance-wise, this incarnation of ST certainly not only lives up to the reputation but enhances it with every single show, Muir’s fantastic frontmanship excellently supported by guitarists Dean Pleasants and Jeff Logan, bassist Ra Diaz whose bass lines pierce through the mix and stand out, and drummer Dave Lombardo, who is still honored by Mike Muir every night as a special member of the band, which just shows how excited and privileged Muir feels that Lombardo is a part of the lineup. Playing sets nowadays with ST that are quite a bit longer than what he did with Slayer, Lombardo exhibited unmatchable class and stamina in his performance, being the real backbone of the ST live sound.
The ST live experience is undoubtedly an enjoyable one, but what often goes unnoticed or under-appreciated is the level of musical skill that’s behind these songs. A good live band is one thing, but what makes it better is the sheer creativity, dynamism and variety you feel during a typical ST set. This is by no means a band of dudes in masks and jumpsuits prancing about and beating on beer kegs with baseball bats – this is a crossover metal/punk band that can write great music, play their instruments, convey a noteworthy message through the lyrics, and above all, put on a memorable live show.
It is fact that Suicidal Tendencies is still one of the best live bands on the planet, and as long as they are active, that fact shall remain unchanged.
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More Suicidal Tendencies photos:
Suicidal Tendencies set list:
01. You Can’t Bring Me Down
02. I Shot Reagan
03. Clap Like Ozzy
05. Trip at the Brain
06. War Inside My Head
07. Go’n Breakdown
08. Possessed to Skate
10. Send Me Your Money
11. I Saw Your Mommy
13. Cyco Vision
14. How Will I Laugh Tomorrow
15. Pledge Your Allegiance
16. Living for Life
Remaining Tour Dates:
02/23/2017 – San Diego, CA @ Observatory
02/24/2017 – Tucson, AZ @ Club X
02/25/2017 – Farmington, NM @ Top Deck
02/27/2017 – Dallas, TX @ Gas Monkey
02/28/2017 – San Antonio, TX @ Paper Tiger
03/01/2017 – Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall
03/03/2017 – Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade
03/04/2017 – Ft. Meyers, FL @ Harborside Events Center
03/05/2017 – Tampa, FL @ State Theatre
03/07/2017 – Memphis, TN @ New Daisy Theatre
03/08/2017 – Lawrence, KS @ Granada
03/10/2017 – Denver, CO @ Summit Music Hall Complex
03/11/2017 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Complex