Words and Pictures by Allison Taich
An audience of loyal Chicago fans patiently awaited Built to Spill to take stage at the Vic Theater last Saturday night. Introducing their set was Chicago’s native rock poet Thax Douglas, who wrote an original piece entitled “Built to Spill Poem #7.” After the band took the stage, and after tuning and gear fiddling, guitarist Brett Nelson interjected an apology: “Hey, sorry we’re fucking around, you know, taking for ever. I’m sorry. We’re gonna do it! Let’s do it!”
The group--Doug Martsch on guitars and vocals, Brett Nelson on guitar, Jim Roth on guitar, Brett Netson on bass, and Scott Plouf on drums--started their set on the mellow side with the new track “Oh Yeah,” followed by more tuning, and the old-school, melodic, up-tempo piece “In the Morning.” By the forth song, “Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss,” the band was content with their intonation and ready to give Chicago their all. As people nodded, swayed, bopped and sang along to the music their expressions were nothing but smiles of approval and joy.
The set list covered the span of Built to Spill’s career (16 years and counting,) including “Oh Yeah” and “Hindsight,” both off of their upcoming release There is No Enemy, due out October 6th. Some tracks were kept brief, while others strayed into extended, intricate jams--the most notable was encore “Conventional Wisdom,” which lasted a good half-hour before the band brought it to an end. The entire time stage lights matched the music’s intensity, becoming brighter during build-ups and peaks, only to fade out as the musicians backed off. Closing the show with “You Were Right” brought down the house.
The band’s beautiful melodies and intricate guitar playing were ideal for filling and warming the theatre’s small, more enclosed, setting. They could not have played a more perfect venue. But what was most impressive was how Marsch, Nelson and Roth complimented and layered their guitar parts into one unifying sound.
When the performance ended both band and audience thanked each other for a stellar evening. In the most modest of fashions band members broke down their own gear, sans roadies, taking time to mingle with fans. They enthusiastically passed out set-lists and guitar picks upon request, and dutifully signed ticket stubs and any other concert paraphernalia handed to them. Not just a great band, they were also a class act.
"Built to Spill Poem #7" (Thax Douglas)
1. Oh Yeah
2. In the Morning
3. The Plan
4. Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss
6. Wherever You Go
8. Three Years Ago
11. One Thing
14. Conventional Wisdom
15. You Were Right