On the first of two shows at New York's Webster Hall Monday night (Oct 12), Boise, Iowa indie rockers Built To Spill showed off their virtuosity. For those new to the band, the extended instrumental solos might have bordered on alienating and overly repetitive, but the live show seemed meant to reward the die-hard fan by showcasing musicianship.
Singer/guitarist Doug Martsch led the band quietly onto the moonlight-blue stage and they immediately began with "In Your Mind," an eerie trip into the subconscious. After becoming more lively with "When Being Stupid is Not Enough" off the 1995 EP co-written with Caustic Resin, BTS moved into "Stupid," complete with a fan-favorite solo featuring Scott Plouf's guitar evoking the sound of ambulance sirens.
The proceedings got the most upbeat with older songs "Sidewalk," and "Joyride," in which Martsch croons, "love is just a joyride/drink a lot of beer and climb inside." The crowd displayed their approval with fist pumps and head nods, especially on the popular "Car." The song was missing the string arrangement featured on the studio version but the band made up for it with a heavy melodic tension that transfixed the audience.
Surprisingly, the set featured only three tracks off the band's new album, "There is No Enemy." First single "Hindsight" opened the encore following a short, trippy instrumental interlude. "Life's A Dream" was a stand out, its melodic riffs escalating in urgency and then swiftly unraveling.
Martsch nervously thanked the audience numerous times for their attendance, yet said little else, leaving the crowd to fill the awkward emptiness between songs with yells and praise for the band. His high tenor began to strain towards the end of the set while the rest of the band was so concentrated on the complexities of the songs that they barely looked up from their instruments. The music, however, was nearly seamless, performed to its highest quality. The crowd didn't seem to mind the relatively stationary stage action. They were there for the songs, not the show.
BTS ended with "Conventional Wisdom" from 2006's "You in Reverse," extending the pounding guitar solo for more than 10 minutes and producing a dizzying, trance-like effect.
Here is Built to Spill's Setlist:
"In Your Mind"
"In the Morning"
"When Being Stupid is Not Enough"
"Wherever You Go"
"Life's A Dream"
"Carry the Zero"
"Stop the Show"