Written by Robert Johnson
Oct 21, 2012 at 10:00 PM
ImageUnwritten Law has gone through numerous lineup changes over the years.  After the departures of Rob Brewer (guitar), Steve Morris (guitar), and Wade Youman (drums) from 2005 to 2011, Scott Russo (vocals / guitar) eventually found himself as the only remaining original member.  It wasn’t a mass exodus.  Youman was the first to go, followed by Brewer, and finally Morris.  While a sudden and complete change could have been devastating to the future of Unwritten Law, the gradual metamorphosis likely helped Russo soften the blow as he continued the project.

By 2012, Unwritten Law was a brand new band.  Featuring Kevin Besignano (guitar), Derik Envy (bass), and Dylan Howard (drums), Scott Russo’s new Unwritten Law was aesthetically different, but fundamentally the same.  First, Russo’s role as frontman for the group has always been the lynchpin to the success of the Unwritten Law name.  His continuation with the band maintains the distinctive voice and attitude that has defined Unwritten Law since the band’s inception.  In addition, Besignano, Envy, and Howard all have the talent and attitude to assume a role in the new Unwritten Law, and the performance ability to make it all work.

For all the changes, one thing remains the same – Unwritten Law puts on one hell of a live event.  On October 21st, I had the opportunity to catch the latest incarnation of Unwritten Law at Warehouse Live in Houston, TX.  Playing a cornucopia of songs spanning the band’s extensive catalog of albums, Unwritten Law treated the intimate Houston crowd to a night of punk-rock, performing with a fire now lacking by many of the band’s contemporaries.

When many bands perform live, they save the most popular songs for the latter part of the set.  Not Unwritten Law.  The band opened with one of its most popular tracks, “Teenage Suicide.”  Russo dawned the guitar, commanding the stage as he played the powerful, distinctive opening notes of the song.  By the opening verse, he took to the mic, using his hands in vintage Russo-fashion to conduct the crowd through the lyrics of the song.  The songs that followed were no different.  Like a supersonic aircraft, Russo and company lifted the crowd to a fervor, performing favorites like “Lonesome” and “Up All Night” with vigor and moxie, emoting every note and lyric.  Six songs in, the crowd was treated to its first glimpse of Russo’s softer side through his performance of “Seein’ Red.”  Arguably the band’s biggest single, “Seein’ Red” lends itself well to the live event.  With its soft verses and powerful chorus, “Seein’ Red” was a clear demonstration of the new band’s cohesion and dexterity.

ImageToward the end of the night, Russo strapped on his acoustic guitar for a breathtaking display of pure talent.  During performances of “She Says” and “Save Me,” it was clear that Russo’s musical strength simply can’t be captured by a studio album.  His voice is a unique blend of soul and gravel, with stunning range and pitch.  In these “stripped” performances, Russo’s heart was on display.  A bit self-deprecating, if not self-aware, Russow talked about screwing up a lot in his life.  As a result, the performances of “She Says” and “Save Me” felt far more personal, as they manifested the true, unadulterated feelings in this man’s soul.  Every word he sang felt spectacular, fashioning the unparalleled nature of his voice.  For every talent show flooding the airwaves, none have produced a voice quite like that of Russo.

Ready to call it a night, the crowd was chanting “C-P-K… C-P-K.”  From the 1994 album Blue Room, “CPK” has long been a favorite of those who grew up in mid-90’s surf-skate scene.  It was obvious, however, that the band had little interest in playing the song.  In fact, Russo even questioned, “You really want to hear that song?”  As if to suggest that the song simply didn’t stand the test of time, the crowd seemingly surprised Russo with a collective “yes!”  After a brief moment of hesitation, Unwritten Law ultimately decided to play the popular crowd request, leaving those in attendance absolutely delighted by the night’s end.

Whether you’re a fan of punk-rock, or simply like a great live event, Unwritten Law is a “must see.”  If for no other reason than to have the opportunity to witness the talent of Scott Russo, be sure catch Unwritten Law next time they come through your town.

Setlist

Teenage Suicide
Rescue Me
Lonesome
Up All Night
Starships and Apocalypse
Seein’ Red
Mean Girl
Nevermind
Superbad
Shoulda Known Better
Celebration Song
Cailin
Underground
She Says
Save Me
CPK
Contact Robert at robert@starsandsatellites.com