Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Live Review: Built To Spill 10/1/19 Webster Hall, NY, NY

Built to Spill 
Live 10/1/19 
Webster Hall, NY, NY

For a band celebrating the 20th Anniversary of one of their best selling albums Built to Spill looked put out, as if they wanted to be anywhere else instead of playing to a sold out Tuesday Night crowd at the recently renovated Webster Hall in New York City.

While there is something to be said about the no frills way the band goes about things, from no stage show, minimal lights/effects, tuning their own instruments to looking like accountants more than rock stars, the energy level emanating from the stage seemed about the same as a cubicle lined work place environment. The crowd were poised to rock, but things remained mellow throughout.

Keep It Like A Secret was Built To Spill's most mainstream friendly record with shorter, catchier songs. This tour is a testament to the album and bands continued popularity. They sold out five nights in a row in New York City (Mon-Tues Manhattan, Wed-Fri Brooklyn) and haven't released a new album since 2015. 

Their set opened just as the album did with "The Plan" and it was played just like the album version as were all of the tracks on this night. The group switched around the order of the record but each take was very close to the original recorded version; no songs were stretched out or experimented with (minus the set closer). The only deviation from the album came early as band dug deep into their catalog for the Caustic Resin combo tune "When Being Stupid Is Not Enough" as the languid playing rose to the best guitar interplay of the night. The only constant in BtS over the years, Doug Martsch remains a great guitarist when he lets loose.

"You Were Wrong" got screeching before pulling the plug and "Sidewalk" pushed up the tempo, but never took off.  A tune like "Bad Light" was the norm for this set as the live version on this night mirrored the studio and a great groove bubbled up at the end but things were quickly truncated; musical blue balls.

The encore was a mix of newer unrecorded tunes like "Understood", older throwbacks like "In The Morning" and a cover (helped out by opener Prism Bitch) of The Kinks "Waterloo Sunset", yet nothing pumped the crowd or the band, as they just went through the motions. Closer "Carry The Zero" ended the night well but it was set closing "Broken Chairs" that was the clear highlight as it came the closest to the expansive version captured on Live and there in lies the conundrum of Built to Spill as a touring band.

A group who has released one of the best live records in indie rock seem either ill prepared, too scared or just not interested in trying to reach those expressive heights again. Whether it is because Martsch chooses to mix up lineups, or just wants to play it safe on stage, BtS shows would be infinitely better/more interesting/worth seeing live if they opened up and played without a net. Even if that meant crashing and burning during shows, at least that would be what rock and roll is about as opposed to re-hashing memories from 20 years ago with zero evolution.

If you want to hear Keep It Like A Secret it is probably better just to blast the original record and if you want to see Built To Spill live, it is probably just better to blast Live these days.
Thanks to Jimmy for the ticket, support them, and peep some video below:

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