concert reviews

Built to Spill's '97 Studio Sound Is a Commanding Stage Presence
Built to Spill at the 9:30 Club, Washington, DC, Tuesday 23 September 2008

Unlike in the world of classical music, there's typically no fixed program at a rock concert: The set list is not disclosed in advance, and bands often slip in requests on the fly. So the idea of playing an album in its entirety (think: Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon") -- popularized recently by London promoters All Tomorrow's Parties with its "Don't Look Back" series -- might seem to stifle the unstructured flow of a rock show.

With the right album, though, the concept works: indie rockers Built to Spill stopped at the 9:30 club Tuesday night on a tour built around performing their 1997 album "Perfect From Now On." The show may have lacked spontaneity, but the album's cohesiveness lent itself well to the show's format: Its long psychedelic jams and dreamy drones flowed just as smoothly live as they do on the album.

Even without the element of surprise, the show still had the sense of anticipation for the album's best moments, which the six-piece band delivered with effortless accuracy: the cello line and accelerating climax in the intro to "Stop the Show," frontman Doug Martsch's trancelike singing at the end of "Velvet Waltz" (intensified by his full-body twitches), and the shimmering extended ending of the album-closing "Untrustable Part 2 (About Someone Else)."

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 25 September 2008; Section C
.: Selected discography: You in Reverse (Built to Spill, 2006); Ancient Melodies of the Future (Built to Spill, 2001); Keep It Like a Secret (Built to Spill, 1999); Perfect From Now On (Built to Spill, 1997); There's Nothing Wrong with Love (Built to Spill, 1994).