Built to Spill: No-nonsense rock at the Paradise

A review of Built to Spill at the Paradise Rock Club on September 30, 2010

, Contributing Writer

Built to Spill, at this point in their career, deserve a big club, something on the scale of House of Blues. Yet, Thursday, they played the first of two nights at Paradise, which at first seemed like an odd choice. However, with the recent renovations, that includes an expanded space, a newly created overhang area, a second bar, a bigger stage and space for close to a hundred extra people, it proved to be a good move for the band, especially when the first night (and presumably the second) was packed.

Built to Spill set the tone for the show with their choice of opening song, “Traces,” a song that gives a good indication of how Built to Spill likes to play it; exactly how they want it. There is no pandering in their set, they play a mix of “hits” (it’s not like they’ve ever had much top 40 radio play) and lesser known songs, and on this night they even included a remarkable cover of “Ripple” off the Grateful Dead album American Beauty complete with an outro solo that built on and played off the memorable vocal melody. They are a no nonsense band and Doug Martsch, Built to Spill’s quiet guitar-god front-man, rarely addressed the crowd other than to offer a “thanks” or, after a hefty round of applause ‘aww, thanks”.

The band poured through songs from every album except their debut and pulled an especially large number from their 1994 classic There’s Nothing Wrong with Love. The bouncy guitar-pop of “Reasons” and “The Big Dipper” showed the band at their sunniest and capable of crafting the catchiest of pop songs. On longer and more angular numbers, like the snaking, and jerking “Some” or the anthemic build of “Time Trap” the band showed their ability to weave long and complex instrumental passages together with ease. They’ve always devoted time to both versions of the band and the new songs they played off of last year’s There is No Enemy, perhaps their best in a decade, showed this, with a winding seven minute version of “Things Fall Apart” and the sing-along “Hindsight,” with its refrain, “what about Canada?”

If there is one thing to gripe about at a Built to Spill show, it’s the band’s tendency to have long pauses between songs, as Doug tunes and retunes his guitar. With no real stage banter, the pauses can accumulate during the night and start to make the set drag a bit. In some ways this is what you’re paying for at Built to Spill show. The band executes the songs with such precision and focus that it only makes sense that it would take some prep time.

If you want non-stop energy, Built to Spill might not be the best bet, but musically speaking, you’d be hard pressed to find a band that turns out a better sounding show. The multiple parts and layers of show closer “Untrustable” were so well constructed and flushed out that at times it almost seems like a recording. Built to Spill is always worth an evening.

Opening in support of Built to Spill was the Boise based, ReVoLtReVoLt, who charmed the crowd with a solid opening set.

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