San Diego punk band Unwritten Law, formed about 10 years ago, has certainly paid its dues, enduring numerous early lineup changes (only drummer Wade Young is an original member), signing three record deals and playing countless low-dough club shows over the years.
The band, which played Friday in Hollywood, also has consistently tinkered with its sound in an effort to break out of obscurity, utilizing varying degrees of hardcore or pop shading to its albums with only modest commercial results. But the elbow grease seems to finally be paying off for the quintet as a pair of tracks from its fourth album, last year’s melodic “Elva” (Interscope), have been enjoying heavy radio and video rotation to finally set the stage for its move to greener pastures.
At the soldout Palace — where scalpers outside were asking $40 each for the $15 tickets — the well-oiled band roared tightly through 17 songs in just about an hour, mostly focusing on tracks from the last two albums. Set opened with the popular “Up All Night,” one of the more melodic cuts from “Elva,” which had all the kids singing along. It was followed by a trio of songs from 1998’s self-named album, including semi-hit “Cailin.”
UL’s sound breaks scant new ground but is an energetic blend of bands like Bad Religion and the Offspring with shades of classic punk groups like the Undertones. The lyrics don’t stray much from the usual topics of elusive romance and teen angst, though vocalist Scott Russo is certainly a compelling and convincing front man.
One of the show’s highlights was a late-set medley of covers featuring “Guns of Brixton” by the Clash and “Waiting Room” by Fugazi, a smart nod to the band’s influences, which then segued into “C.P.K.,” the lead track from band’s 1994 indie release “Blue Room.”
Current hit single “Seein’ Red” rocked much harder here than on the album and generated a large, spinning mosh pit in front of the stage. Fun show closed, sans encore, with a six-minute version of “Evolution,” the dramatic final song from “Elva” that’s pretty much a musical middle finger to shady record company execs.