Even if you have all their albums and can sing all their songs, you don't know Unwritten Law until you've seen them live.
With nearly 2 million albums sold and half-a-dozen radio hits, SoCal's favorite sons captured one of these fiery performances on their first-ever concert LP/DVD, Live & Lawless. Recorded last March at the Key Club on Sunset Strip, Live & Lawless shows UL – singer Scott Russo, guitarist Steve Morris, bassist Pat Kim and tour drummer Dylan Howard – blowing the doors off with such power-packed rock hits as "Up All Night," "Save Me (Wake Up Call)" and the Modern Rock No. 1 smash "Seein' Red."
"Unwritten Law is a genuine high-powered live rock band, and I don't think there are a lot of bands out there like that anymore," says Russo. "We just wanted to put it down on wax so fans would have a chance to take that experience home and so people can see us even if they live in Tasmania and wherever else they can't make it out to shows."
For longtime fans, Live & Lawless dusts off a few classics that haven't been played as often in recent years. Examples include "Mean Girl," "Babylon" and their early radio hit "Caitlin." In fact, when the band started practicing "Underground" as another such addition, the song sounded so good live that it became their new concert opener.
"We played for an hour and a half, and we definitely put up a set list with songs we don't always play," says Russo. "I mean, we never play for an hour and a half!"
While the album features 16 live tracks, the DVD features 22 songs, including an entire five-song acoustic set in the middle of the performance. As the band closes the solos-filled "Lonesome," the players grab acoustic guitars and seamlessly segue into their Top 20 rock hit "Rest of My Life." Though they typically don't play acoustic songs on tour, UL included the mini-set for fans of their popular unplugged release Music in High Places. The drop in distortion doesn't equate to a drop in energy, though, as the band delivers spirited performances of "Before I Go," "Elva," "Shallow" and an acoustic-electric mix of their 2005 hit "She Says" before plugging back in for "Lost Control." A few songs later, UL closes the night with its original underground hit "C.P.K."
"That's how we typically end the set for all our old school fans," says Russo. "'C.P.K.' was the first song that I actually wrote for the band, and that was the staple for Unwritten Law when we first got recognized. Back then, it was everyone's favorite song, from the band to the label to the fans."
Live & Lawless also features the bonus studio track "Shoulda Known Better." While they include the live version in the set, the band also filmed an official (uncensored) music video for the song that appears on the DVD.
Formed in San Diego in the early '90s, UL was a major part of the pop-punk movement that swept the decade. As the band developed, UL started writing bigger songs that retained the punk energy but featured more of a rock sound. Over the past few years, Russo doubled his efforts as a songsmith, and UL grew into what could be described as singer-songwriter punk rock, which is why UL is one of the few punk bands that could pull off an acoustic set.
In their efforts to push their creativity and songwriting strengths, the band recorded for a number of different labels, including three of the four major label groups and a few indies. For Live & Lawless, UL partnered with their longtime friends at Suburban Noize Records, who will also release their next studio album in 2009.
In the meantime, UL plans to tour for Live & Lawless, and as the DVD demonstrates, the band is as popular as ever. After posting an online news item about the upcoming live recording, fans flew in from as far away as the East Coast and Australia for the historic concert. Of course, all the fans showed their support by going nuts for each and every song.
"Unwritten Law is really a live band, and this is a great chance to see how we interact live on stage," says Russo. "This is a really hard rockin' Unwritten Law show."