Unwritten Law – Live & Lawless – DVD/CD Review

California punk rockers Unwritten Law have recently released their second live DVD for your visual and listening pleasure. This time around the band has teamed up with Suburban Noize Records to release Live & Lawless, a CD/DVD release that is more of a celebration of their success as a modern punk rock band rather then just another live show.

Recorded in March of 2008 at the historic Key Club on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, the band consisting of singer Scott Russo, guitarist Steve Morris, bassist Pat “PK” Kim, and temporary stand-in drummer Dylan Howard, make a point to play their hearts out to their hardcore fans.

Unwritten Law
Unwritten Law

Formed in the early nineties, Unwritten Law first started out as a speedier punk band but throughout the years they took different approaches to making music, and soon matured into more of a hard rock act. 1998’s self titled album had a couple of tracks that were put into heavy rotation on the radio but nothing more than that. In 2002, the band came out with Elva and their song “Seeing Red” became a chart topping hit.

Just one year later, the band was approached accidentally by VH1 (they meant to call Jimmy Eat World) to see if they would play some acoustic tracks. The result was Music In High Places, a part studio part live acoustic album that coincided with a separately released DVD called Live In Yellowstone.

Live & Lawless is the band’s first start-to-finish live DVD. This release also comes with a CD full of the tracks the band played that night in Hollywood. The CD has seventeen tracks plus a bonus track. The DVD covers the twenty-two song set and also contains some bonus footage.

The show starts with the band on stage in full force playing “Underground”. One of the first things I notice is that there are no bouncers in front of the stage and to me that is a nice thing to see. This show is strictly the band facing the fans. Hit songs “Teenage Suicide” and “Calin” were played to approving fans as they sang along as loud as they possibly could

The acoustic version of “Rest Of My Life” featured just Scott Russo and the crowd. His voice was on point throughout and did not crackle or show any signs of being tired even though sweat was dripping off his forehead. The rest of the band slowly snuck on stage where they smoothly depart into “She Says”. The crowd erupted as soon as they sang the refrain to the song.

“Before I Go” is a bonus treat to the crowd as the band starts a mini acoustic session with the entire band playing their acoustic instruments. I love the way this song sounds. They continue with “Elva” and surprisingly “Shallow”, a real old track by the band.

This was the first time I had heard the old school song performed acoustically and Scott Russo even admitted to the crowd that is was a special song they were going to play. I must say the song brought back some memories. Hearing the band slow the track down a bit and play it unplugged just made it that much more enjoyable. The only sad thing about this song is that I would guess two thirds of the crowd may never have heard this before. Arms waving and smiles were among the many but when it came time to sing along there was not as much partaking.

Before engaging in “Save Me” front man Scott Russo took a moment to spread some love to all the sardine packed fans in the front row. He asked everyone for some crowd participation before starting the song and just about everyone complied. With big thank yous it was clear that the concert was coming to an end.

Making this show even more memorable to myself, the very first song the band ever wrote, and one of my personal favorites, “CPH” closed out the show. Nothing like an oldie to wrap things up, especially when it was one of the first songs I heard as a teenager that caused me to become an Unwritten Law fan.

DVD bonus features included the music video for “Shoulda Know Better” as well as a intimate interview session with questions coming from the fans who were actually at the DVD shoot that evening. Hearing the story from Pennywise about Fletcher jumping a van into someone’s backyard was amusing. The band answered questions individually, shared their influences, decisions to change up their style, and even some more personal stories. The answer to how would Pat “PK” Kim look if he were bald had me laughing out loud as the bassist drew up a picture of himself.

There was not a dull moment throughout the entire live show. This DVD is pure evidence what a punk rock show should be. Seems like only yesterday a young punk rock me was in the crowd checking out Unwritten Law singing all of the songs they sang at the top of my lungs. Over ten years later, they still have it and show no signs of tiring out one bit.

Here’s a couple of clips from the DVD just for a small taste:

4 thoughts on “Unwritten Law – Live & Lawless – DVD/CD Review”

  1. interesting stuff – the acoustic live disc is pretty much the only thing I have from Unwritten Law – never really got into them beyond that, but I LOVE that disc. I don’t recall it being part studio/part live though. My version (the indie one) was all live, as I recall…

    Am I high?

  2. Matt – you are correct about Music In High Places being mostly live, but the last track “Shallow” on the disc was recorded in the studio so I guess that makes it part studio??? I suppose I could have reworded that a bit. I have nothing but love for these guys and I agree with you about LOVING the acoustical CD.

  3. I’ll have to look, since I have the indie version – I think I remember that the studio track was tacked on for the major label re-release, but who knows.

    And frankly, who cares?? 🙂

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