An Unusual Experience: Built to Spill live at Paradise Rock Club

by Leonardo Bertinelli

It was a usual Monday evening in Boston, the sun had set, the wind was blowing and the moon was rising while I was riding to the Paradise Rock Club. I was very curios about the venue because it has such a great history; it is like a little Rock temple. U2, AC/DC, The Police, Dire Straits, Blondie, R.E.M., and others have played there in the past.

When I arrived, I was surprised. It could have been a club on Los Angeles’ Sunset Blvd: that big entrance with lights on, people crowded outside and excited for the show… wow! I am not used to that vibe. Going inside I could feel and smell the Rock ’n’ Roll in the air. The stage was set, lighten up by soft colored lights.

The first act was driven by Alex G and his band. They played Indie-Rock with some flavor of Country and Brit rock. The overall sound was good, but they did not impress me. After them, it was the time for Hop Along, a Philadelphia based indie-folk band. The first song was performed by a girl, guitar and voice only. It was soft, but had a grunge feeling given by the singer’s rasping and husky voice. For next songs all the band was involved and they literally fired the night up. The music was powerful, energetic, astonishing. The lead voice remembered me Janis Joplin or Joan Jett. They had the right spirit for playing Rock ’n’ Roll! I was impressed and amazed and the crowd too. It seemed to be the main act. Unfortunately after few songs they had to quit and leave the stage to Built to Spill.

As they played the first note, everyone was shouting, the venue was full and the volume high. The song was very good, but I immediately noticed that something was missing. There were no emotions involved. During the guitar solo, the guitarist was thinking at the sound, playing with a tape echo rather than playing the guitar and transmitting emotions. This is what I have heard and seen during the whole show. Amazing music, amazing compositions and arrangements, but I could feel the lack of stage presence and emotions.

Wait a minute… was I in a recording session or was I at a live Indie-Rock concert?

The bass player seemed bored and not involved in what was happening around him, the guitar player, that is the leader of the band, was not driving the night in the right way. People around me could not feel that, and they continued to shout, singing along, and having fun. I think they were just listening and not seeing what was going on.

I closed my eyes for a minute and I could see a different atmosphere, I imagined a band shaking their instruments and jumping around the stage, I imagined that I was watching The Who, but as soon as I opened my eyes, I had the opposite image in front of me. As the concert finished, I was shocked and overwhelmed because it felt as though I was the only one who had made those observations during the show.

Ultimately, what I expected to be a night of Rock and Roll, was actually a different experience. Amazing music, but lack of emotions.

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