Tonight is an early anticipated gig by many people I speak to. An opportunity to see their band in a great small venue, as opposed the stadia of previous tours. The mixed crowd of rockers and mid-twenty somethings are buzzing and excited to be here, in a packed Civic Hall – tonight we’re here to see Incubus.
Support comes British indie rock upstarts fiN. According to their website – they are all about thinking outside the box, taking alternative rock and making something different. They are indeed indie/commercial/rock, this is their first show with Incubus. They finish their set with ‘Life is Wasted on the Living’ and title of their website. You can find out more there. New and shiny – I wish them all the luck in the world in getting the breaks they need in the modern music scene. They were selling their merchandise outside the venue afterwards. We weren’t sure they were the actual band, maybe mates. They were. I said I was reviewing the gig. They didn’t believe me either.
Incubus formed in 1991, when Californian school friends Brandon Boyd (vocals), Mike Einziger (guitar), Jose Pasillas (drummer) hooked up, joined later by Chris Kilmore (keyboards and DJ) and Ben Kenney (bass). The first decade (and a bit of a lull in the rock scene) was spent supporting bands such as Korn, System of a Down and playing festivals like Ozzfest.
Their break into the mainstream came with single ‘Drive‘ from the ‘Make Yourself’ album. Follow up album ‘Morning View’ was the real commercial breakthrough followed by ‘A Crow Left of the Murder’, which also sold in bucket loads. Incubus have subsequently gone on to sell over 13 million albums worldwide. Tonight they’re here promoting their new album ‘If Not Now, When?’ produced by Brendan O’Brien (Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave amongst a long list of others).
So roll on 9pm, and they come on to rapturous applause and screams from the crowd. Set starts with ‘Privilege’, with an indie rock sound – think Deftones. They are heavier live than on record, and their adoring fans are keen and excitable – especially to see frontman Boyd. The next song is one of their hits – ‘Wish Your Were Here’ – which the crowd loves. This college rock anthem works well and now we can see an impressive stage set – full backdrop huge digital screen, at one point showing the crowd with arms in the air, being filmed with a live feed, edited and ‘broadcast’ real time. “Good to be here Wolverhampton” responds Boyd.
The whole package is impressively professional – from the sound to the set, and of course the band. The screen features accompanying images, from the arty to simple, reflecting the different songs. ‘Adolescents’ mixes between arty mono shots live streamed of the band, and pictures of speaker drums. Boyd sings away into a hand held mike, percussion instrument in the other hand. “How are you doing boys and girls?” The set, while so professional is punctuated between each song; Boyd is a man of few words, so you get a minute or so to have a chat amongst yourselves. It’s noticeable, and rather odd, like everything is being reset for the next song.
Tonight’s set is an intermix of the old and the brand new, of bouncing teenage angst in your face songs, of commercial college rock, and of some incredibly laid back melodic tracks. They are really difficult to define, to categorise, each song type they play, relates to different sections of the crowd. The new songs are more melodic laid back, more arty. Take ‘In the Company of Wolves’ which winds on and on, almost soul based. A slight confusion to the audience, but still great in it’s own right.
Then we have an acoustic double head – Boyd and Einziger undertaking an “Extreme” moment with ‘Defiance’ and ‘Love Hurts.’
And of course, Brandon Boyd, shown close up on the massive screen, his good looks, provide eye candy for the ladies, acknowledged as he takes the jacket off to show a sleeveless T-shirt. But he is not “just” a good looking guy – he has great vocals, immersed in hitting the notes just right as needed.
Another hit ‘ Warning’ merges into ‘Riders on the Storm’ halfway through and then back again, as they begin to crank up the set. And they close their set to ‘Megalomaniac’ accompanied by screams as Boyd removed his T, this is Incubus back into indie rock – back into “Rage Against the Machine” territory. The screen shows pictures of Nazis, the family unit, street protects, and artist montage to reflect the song. Probably the stand out track of the night.
And then set completed, they’re off; the crowd clap and foot stamp on the balcony, and gratefully acknowledge their return. Boyd: “Thank you very much boys and girls, been a pleasure to play for you tonight – sorry it’s been so long…”
And now a rambling musical intro, Boyd on percussion drums, and we’re into yet another hit, ‘Nice to Know You’, with a grungy sound – it gets a great response. New track ‘Tomorrow’s Food’ which is kinda whimsical, the screen split two ways, showing what could be described as life’s journey – baby to child to adult, mushrooms growing, famous and non-famous, people’s lives, old and new images, destruction. It finishes with the infamous shot of the earth from the moon, and completes tonight’s show.
Incubus have always been a bit different. The indie side of rock, but with those big Californian college hits that gave them huge success. They may be akin to the Deftones and Rage in one song, the DJ scratching of Linkin Park in another, commercial in another, and melodic in yet another. They can’t be categorized. And they have come a very long way from three lads in high school forming a band. They take what they do seriously; they are clearly reflecting on life, the world and everything else – they clearly have something to say. They also clearly show what amazing success a bunch of school kids who form a band, can achieve. They didn’t just turn up in a town in the back end of the Midlands, they brought a huge professional show – they wanted to give a show for the money the fans had coughed up tonight (tickets were £27.50 in advance).
Initially when I left I was a tad confused, it was the first time I’d seen them live and only really knew them from their hits. But Incubus do so more than just give you a great night, they are one of those bands that make you think, make you ponder, and it is after then that you realize that it was a great gig. As a fan, you’re hooked, for those wanting to explore more, it is difficult to say if you like this genre, then you’ll like Incubus. But if you want a great night and a great show, on the indie / rockier side of town, than more than worth the effort. I enjoyed them and I’d see them again. For Incubus are far more than what you will expect. They will surprise you.
2. Wish You Were Here
4. Pardon Me
5. Promises, Promises
8. Talk Shows on Mute
9. A Certain Shade of Green
10. Make Yourself
11. In the Company of Wolves
12. Defiance (acoustic)
13. Love Hurts (acoustic)
15. Anna Molly
20. Nice to Know You
21. Tomorrow’s Food
Hit album – Morning View (2001)
Crow Left of the Murder (2004)
If Not Now,When? (2011)
Review – Zyllah Moranne-Brown
Photos – James Harrison