Satisfying all expectations

Built to Spill averts disaster and delivers a solidly moving performance.

Keri Carlson


Aconcert can make or break a band. If a band whose every record sits in your record collection sounds awful live, it’s a huge disappointment. It does not mean you will never listen to the band again, but it causes the excitement to drastically diminish.

If a band astonishes, however, it can produce a convert – prompting a fan to be truly devoted, gathering every seven-inch record, T-shirt and eBay item possible.

On albums, Built to Spill sticks to short, quirky, indie rock with the most addicting melodies to come out of college radio. In concert, though, the group has a reputation for turning into a jam band – their live record features a 20-minute Neil Young cover.

A rumor alleged that the new Built to Spill album would be bluesy. Normally, when white bands from the north (Built to Spill is from Idaho) decide to turn “blues,” it is not a good thing. Probably, there was not really cause for concern, considering Built to Spill’s lead singer Doug Martsch came out with a solo record last year which took a decent stab at rootsy blues. Surprisingly, Martsch plays a mean slide guitar.

Despite, or perhaps because of, the potential for disappointment that existed, Built to Spill put on an amazing show. The new material they played remained solidly Built to Spill. While mostly slower than earlier spastic albums, it beautifully expanded from the richly layered melancholy tracks of their last album, “Ancient Melodies of the Future.”

Mostly, though, Built to Spill delighted the crowd with favorites. “Center of the Universe” had every Converse in the venue hopping up and down. The twisting guitar parts on “Strange” sounded even lovelier live, bouncing off the walls of First Avenue, than on the album. And the band ended the night with the song everyone came to hear, “Car.”

Built to Spill did, of course, bust out into a long dub jam session. Lengthy guitar solos were added to other songs. The band balanced the show well enough with short and poppy songs so it refrained from turning into a Phish concert.

The next day, fans could be seen walking around campus sporting Built to Spill shirts from the concert. The band made a connection with everyone in the room that night and turned us all into devotees.

Artist: Built to Spill
Where: First Avenue
When: Sept. 15 and 16