Built To Spill + Hop Along @ Club Soda – 1st October 2016

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Last time Built To Spill came to town only a year ago (reviewed right here), it was their first visit in many, many years. Incredible, then, that they would come back so soon this time around! Veterans of 26 years, 8 studio albums, and countless other EP’s and singles, they’d be forgiven for slowing down. Not so; their live show is as dynamic and varied as ever. Check out setlist.fm – every night is a different set! Indeed, only 2 songs in tonight’s set featured in last years visit to Club Soda. Any fans who elected to skip tonight’s show expecting a repeat of last time will be sorely disappointed! And there are evidently a few; tonight’s show is much less busy than last time, with the balcony even closed off. No matter; after a 1-year intermission, those of us who did come back for part 2 of “The Return Of Built To Spill” were richly rewarded.


After an excellent set from Philadelphia’s Hop Along (think PJ Harvey with a gravelly voice), Built To Spill take to the stage and begin setting up their own gear, with casual cheers sporadically emanating from the crowd each time frontman Doug Martsch appears from the sides of the stage. A nonchalant wave to the sound guy signals the lights to go down, and the band launch into All Our Songs, the storming 6-minute opener on 2015’s Untethered Moon. The crowd roars in approval as Doug rips that distinctive riff while bassist and drummer fall silent for a few seconds, before joining back in for the finale which culminates in Doug shredding his guitar frantically before the song comes to an abrupt end. For any other band, that would be a fitting set closer, but when you’re Built To Spill, with as solid a back catalogue as you have, you can easily play it this early.


Centre of the Universe, with its stop-start chorus, and Goin’ Through come next, before 1999 classic The Plan elicits the biggest roar of the night so far. Heads bounce around the room as Doug somehow manages to solo on his guitar and mess with assorted effects simultaneously. Reasons, Else, and Understood follow in quick succession, before Doug address the crowd for the first time. “Hey, how’s it going for y’all tonight? It’s a pleasure to be back in Montreal!” The crowd unsurprisingly roars back. The distinctive finger-picking intro of Sidewalk stirs into life, before the intricate solo-laden Joyride takes the energy up another level, as he rips out the squealing solo outro with his eyes closed! The bassist contributes harmonies on next song Pat, as Doug closes his eyes again; he looks to be well and truly zoned in at this point! Stop The Show is yet another set highlight, with a laid-back intro slowing further to just a pulsating bassline, sounding almost like a heartbeat, before then exploding into life in a flash of strobe lights and distortion. After more impressive harmonies on a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Effigy, the epic Carry The Zero closes out the main set in grandiose fashion, with its unmistakable intro and another mesmerizing solo. Doug simply, shyly, states “hey, thanks a lot!” before the band depart the stage….but thankfully not for long.


As the band return for an encore, it seems like someone may have kicked a plug out on the way off stage, as the guitars are unresponsive for a few minutes. The guilty party is soon isolated, and we’re back underway with the glorious I Would Hurt A Fly from 1997’s “Perfect From Now On.” The swirling epic hits the breakdown, changes tempo completely, and despite Dougs face suggesting that he’s not happy with something, it sounds absolutely incredible to everybody else. A huge singalong then accompanies pop classic Big Dipper (“pop” in a relative sense, obviously…), undoubtedly the best song ever written that mentions a Brontosaurus! Goin’ Against Your Mind, from 2006’s You In Reverse, closes out the show in triumphant fashion, with one final cacophony of guitar shreds, distortion, and grumbling basslines. Spectacular stuff, and a 95-minute set that perfectly complements their last visit here.


After its over, before departing the stage, Doug simply stands and smiles at different faces in the crowd in gratitude, smiling shyly and betraying an unmistakable sense of humility, almost surprised at the rapturous response from the crowd. After 26 years of doing this, he certainly doesn’t seem tired of it. That’s good – after 26 years, we haven’t gotten tired of listening either, and on tonights evidence, we never will.


Set List
All Our Songs
Center of the Universe
Goin’ Through
The Plan
Stop the show
Effigy (Creedence Clearwater Revival cover)
Carry the Zero

I Would Hurt a Fly
Big Dipper
Goin’ Against Your Mind

Review & photos – Simon Williams

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