by Kayla Avitabile
The beloved Boise-native indie rock band Built to Spill played not one, but three shows at Cambridge’s The Sinclair late September. That in and of itself attests to the talent that this band brings to the stage. Their current tour celebrates the 20th anniversary of their 1999 album, Keep It Like a Secret, of which, “Carry the Zero,” – their most recognizable single – appears; and their performance of this song near the conclusion of the concert was an undoubted highlight of the night. While indie rock is not always known for its musical mastery, Built to Spill’s near effortless execution of the mid-song jam session was impressive. Typically, the mid-song jam feels tedious due to incoherent melodic lines and unnecessary feedback, often resulting in a distinct yearning for the song to just resume its normal structure. However, Built to Spill’s ability to provide virtuosic mid-song improvisations throughout the night intensified the intimacy felt in this musical space.
The cozy venue was full to the brim with fans, and it was clear that everyone in the room knew and admired Built to Spill prior to the show. Between the veneration of this classic indie band and the calm nature of their performance, the vibe of the night was low-key and enjoyable. While it is amazing to go to a concert where you dance and scream till you can’t no more, it is also just as satisfying to be at a show where you can simply stand there and appreciate the music. In addition, their cover of Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets” was a pleasant surprise which added variety to the soundscape. Doug Martsch’s unique vocals were a fantastic match for this timeless hit. Not everyone can pull off Elton John, but he did so with ease. Their interpretation of this song was clever and highly memorable. While this concert did not feature new music, as a tour often signifies for musicians (their last album debuted in 2015), it was refreshing to see a concert that honored the band’s previous achievements.
Other beloved songs from Keep It Like a Secret such as “Center of the Universe,” and “The Plan” won instant crowd approval evidenced by cheers within the first few chords, and the chorus of “You Were Right” was met by a room-wide sing along. Built to Spill showed that bands do not have to be showy or obnoxious to garner an audience’s attention. Their music does stand for itself. If you are an indie rock lover and have not seen Built to Spill, you will not be disappointed by the band’s musical capability and songwriting prowess (also, you have plenty of chances left on this massive tour).