The last Rialto show I attended before Built to Spill last Thursday was Beck, and I couldn't help but note the disparity of the two performances. Beck had a video screen, a marionette troupe acting out what was happening on stage in real time (complete with "puppet cams") and a sold-out crowd that made the Rialto feel chaotic (in a good way) and hot (in a not so good way).
The 450 attendees at the Built to Spill show made for a more comfortable concert-going experience (that air conditioning works pretty well after all), but the entirety of Built to Spill's "show" comprised five middle-aged dudes in short pants, playing a bunch of really good songs. Nothing more, nothing less.
And it worked just fine, for a time, anyway.
An opening set was provided by BTS guitarist Brett Netson--who was accompanied by a marimba player and, on a couple songs, a lap steel player--which amounted to four ethereally textured, atmospheric songs in 40 minutes. As long as one was in the mood for it, it was rather beautiful and haunting. (Tucson's The Solace Bros. were also slated for opening duties, but had to cancel due to singer/keyboardist Dan Naiman's wife, Marcela, giving birth to a new baby son the day before the show. Congrats!)
So, at 10 p.m. sharp, as the rest of the band members ambled onstage, head Spiller Doug Martsch launched into a solo version of 1994's "Car," which seemed as if it might have been an impromptu addition to the set list in honor of the locale: "I wanna see it / when you get stoned on a cloudy, breezy desert afternoon." From there, the band embarked on a highlight tour of its oeuvre, from "Else" to "Untrustable/Part 2 (About Someone Else)" to "Big Dipper" to the brand new "Goin' Against Your Mind," all benefiting from the intertwined triple-guitar swells and ebbs, instinctively knowing when to draw things out into jam territory or keep them concise.
But then a funny thing happened about an hour into the set: You could almost palpably feel the energy being sucked out of the room (and many attendees with it), and it happened seemingly instantaneously. And when a set begins to flag, hearing the words, "Here's another new one," doesn't help matters. To drive the point home, after a full hour-and-a-half set, the band returned for an encore: One 20-minute song that seemed as if it lasted for days.