Built to Spill Still Kill

October 6th, 2010

Bulit to Spill – Music Hall of Williamsburg – October 5, 2010

Things you might have learned from Built to Spill between 11 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. on the other side of Tuesday: Doug Martsch is a fantastic, virtuosic guitarist. And this is a band with a catalog so rich and so deep that choosing a set list must be like an indie-rock Sophie’s Choice. And lastly, it has been a long drive since 1992, but the intervening 18 years have left Built to Spill no worse for wear. Rather, they remain sharp and weird and achingly relevant.

Martsch resembled something of an amped-up bobblehead, delivering his lyrics with rapid-fire abandon and tweaking his neck in perfect rhythm. The band proved sharp, navigating the throwback 1990s guitar symphonies with aplomb and energy, while playing “Reasons,” “Hindsight,” and “Distopian Dream Girl” in succession during the first half of the set.

Continuing to wipe himself off with a towel, Martsch played the aging yet mercurial frontman well. He has less hair than he did in ’96 when Keep It Like a Secret was both a major-label release and a critical shift in rock modality, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t still spike his remaining locks to the side with sweat. He would close the night in shuddering, thrashing fashion with “Carry the Zero.” The final movement tested the boundaries of the band, the past from whence they came and the moment into which they stepped, accepted and crushed. —Geoff Nelson