Built to Spill and Afghan Whigs played House of Blues – 4/20

Doug Martsch’s Built to Spill and Greg Dulli’s Afghan Whigs brought their co-headlining spring tour to Boston’s House of Blues on Friday, with support from California electronic duo Rituals of Mine. 

On paper, the Whigs/Built to Spill team-up looks like an unlikely pairing, and in execution it…still kind of is. Martsch’s earnest bewilderment and penchant for winding psychedelic guitar explorations doesn’t exactly gel with Dulli’s licentious, lacerating grunge-soul confessionals. Still, as the slim turnover between sets proved Friday night, there’s plenty of overlap in the bands’ fanbases. And why not? Whether reactivated after a decade break, in the case of the Whigs, or steadily soldiering on since ’92, as Built to Spill have, both acts are revered guitar bands of a certain era that can still bring the goods live and in the studio. Might as well join forces and see what happens.

Dulli and the five-(or occasionally six)-piece Whigs played first of the two headliners, confidently conjuring the churning tension of songs from both their strong post-reunion LPs and their classic 90s run. Dulli can belt out those tortured lyrics with as much conviction and sinister charisma now as ever, and the whole band brings a satisfying punch to the stage. They even found time to work a David Gilmour cover into the mix.

Martsch, now joined by just a bassist and a drummer in Built to Spill’s most stripped-down live lineup in years, took over nearly two hours later for a set packed with classics (and an unexpected Pretenders cover of its own). Never one for stage presence, Martsch said little and let the songs flow, to the delight of an ecstatic crowd singing back every word of “Car” and “You Were Right, among others. The songs admittedly had less meat on their bones with the band playing as a trio rather than a five-piece, but with Martsch still in top shredding form, that wasn’t the detriment it might’ve been to a different band.

LA’s Rituals of Mine opened the night with a dramatically-illuminated electronic set distinguished by the kinetic stage presence and powerful voice of singer Terra Lopez, which refreshingly balanced out the 90s guitar-dude nature of the Whigs/BtS double bill.

Photos of all three sets below.