Built To Spill @ Corona Theatre – 21st September 2019

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Built To Spill in Montreal 2019

Oh September 2019, you will be the death of me.  So many shows, so little energy.  Seriously, I tried my best to cull any non-essential shows, honestly, I did, but have you seen the listings for this month??  Vampire Weekend’s first headline show in 9 years?  Can’t miss that.  Our Lady Peace, Bush, AND Live playing together?  Nope, can’t miss that either.  Massive Attack touring their Mezzanine record?  Ride’s first headline show in 31 years?  That’s two more No’s.  You get the picture.  As exhausting as a ton of shows close together are, missing any of them is not an option.  And when Built To Spill come to play their entire Keep it Like a Secret record to celebrate its 20-year anniversary, you don’t miss that either. 

And so here we are.

After playing their last 2 shows in 2015 and 2016 at Club Soda, Doug Martsch et el opt for Theatre Corona this time around.  It’s much more picturesque, but lacks the intimacy of Club Soda, and even more so since the balcony is closed off, rendering much of the room off-limits.  Still, the floor section is pretty packed out as a result.  Its a smart move, as it keeps the tired and weary on their feet and engaged instead of relaxing upstairs, leaving an awkwardly empty floor section (I’ve seen it before, its uncomfortable for everyone involved). 

As mentioned, the 20th birthday of the ageless Keep It Like A Secret record is the reason for tonight’s party, and all 10 tracks of that record are played tonight, though interestingly, are spread randomly throughout the main set and the encore, and not following the original track listing.  The Plan opens the show, and sounds as fresh as ever, setting off a sea of heads bouncing in unison around the floor.  The sinister guitar breakdown is amped up somewhat, before slowing down to Doug’s vocal, which sounds almost Jazz Club in comparison.  It merges seamlessly into When Not Being Stupid Is Not Enough, from the 1995 Split EP with Boise neighbors Caustic Resin, which also breaks down spectacularly in sync with bright pink light beams that dance around the stage.  Time Trap and its simple strum chorus sound massive tonight too, and elicits a huge singalong, as does Sidewalk, as Doug’s noodling guitar intro waltzes with the bass, before being steamrolled by the crashing drums of the deadpan drummer who never smiles all evening.  Center Of The Universe sees a few even try to pogo, though it soon reverts back to pumping fists and raucous singing instead, and even more so when Doug drops off his mic to let the crowd sing the last line of the chorus on a few occasions.  Carry The Zero, which closes the encore, sees a much more convincing pogo around the floor – I guess they wanted to save the best for last!

Outside of the Keep It Like A Secret record, the undeniable highlight is the perfect I Would Hurt A Fly, which sparks roars at the initiation of the ultra-slow drum beat, and I feel goosebumps on my arms pretty quickly as the sultry, sinister, moody vocal kicks in: “I can’t get that sound you make out of my head / I can’t even figure out what’s making it.”  It still sounds wonderful, and it that moment I feel weirdly sad; sad that there are people in this world who don’t know this perfect song.  Evidently, a few of those are in the room tonight, as a few cheer loudly when the song pauses for a few seconds (assuming it’s the end) before they are quickly silenced as the song kicks back in with a complete change of direction towards a much heavier rock sound.  Stunning.  Reasons and Strange sound pretty great too.

The band elect to throw in a couple of covers too, in the form of Benny And The Jets and Waterloo Sunset.  It’s a shame that other iconic songs like Car and Big Dipper are omitted from the set to accommodate them, but that’s really the only gripe in an otherwise magnificent 100-minute set. 

Here’s hoping the band continue to celebrate their discography this way – I will be ready and waiting when Ancient Melodies Of The Future turns 20 in a couple of years!


  • 1.    The Plan
  • 2.    When Not Being Stupid Is Not Enough
  • 3.    Time Trap
  • 4.    Strange
  • 5.    Sidewalk
  • 6.    Bad Light
  • 7.    Else
  • 8.    Center Of The Universe
  • 9.    Temporarily Blind
  • 10.  I Would Hurt A Fly
  • 11.  Broken Chairs
  • Encore
  • 12.  You Were Right
  • 13.  Reasons
  • 14.  Bennie And The Jets (Elton John Cover)
  • 15.  Waterloo Sunset (The Kinks Cover)
  • 16.  Carry The Zero

Review and photos – Simon Williams

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