Incubus at Hollywood Casino Amphitheater (7/23/15)
On the morning of July 23rd, I read what I found to be an incredibly offensive article on Billboard Magazine’s website. As an absolute die-hard Incubus fan, I was appalled when I read the review of the first stop of their co-headlining tour with the Deftones. The author claimed that The Deftones were excellent while Incubus was simply mediocre and lacked some energy, making the flow of the overall show awkward. Being a fan for almost two decades, I’ve never known Incubus to be anything other than one of the best live bands I have ever seen (I’m not biased either, clearly), so I was worried that, somehow, the boys had lost their mojo!
Incubus had been a touring juggernaught for 17 years or so before taking a hiatus in 2008. They returned in 2012 with If Not Now, When?, which many (myself included) felt wasn’t quite up to snuff compared to the rest of the band’s catalog. I had been unable to see them on that tour so, with this being my first shot at seeing the fellas live in 7 years, I was REALLY worried at what I was going to see. Could my heroes be, as I feel on most days, past their prime?
The opening notes of “Nice to Know You” were unnerving. Its a quiet, groovy, slow building intro so, it sounded great, but nothing had really happening yet. My mind raced. Great choice of opener, but has it been too long? Are they gonna sound like one of those old bands who are, basically, just covering themselves? Will this powerful song come off flat and sink the whole set? The band faded out for what felt like an eternity. The high hats went “chhck” and Incubus fucking exploded.
Everyone in the newly renamed Hollywood Casino Amphitheater went apeshit. I remembered why these guys were my favorite band all over again. They weren’t as good as I remembered, they were better. They were older (like me) but also more refined, more crisp. They were equally powerful as in the past while making it look half as difficult. I’m not ashamed to say I very legitimately teared up during the first minute of the song. It was like seeing an old friend after years apart only to realize how much you’d missed them. Nerdy-ness aside, the boys were ready to play.
The set was well balanced between albums (1 S.C.I.E.N.C.E., 3 Make Yourself, 4 Morning View, 3 …A Crow Left of the Murder, 2 Light Grenades, 2 If Not Now When?, 3 Trust Fall(SIDE A)) and didn’t let up the whole time. They covered parts of two great songs (“Come As You Are”, “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”) and changed their classics with unpredictable, syncopated jams. Brandon made girls shriek when he removed his shirt. Mike Shredded furiously in place. Chris Kilmore threw his massive dreads around. Ben Kenney danced about as if floating on butts and Jose Pasillas, my fave, absolutely crushed it on the drums, adding awesome new jazzy bits while still rocking harder than ever.
The biggest change to the live show came during “In the Company of Wolves”. Brandon began the song draped in some sort of shawl, which I found strange but not completely out in left field (he’s quite whipsy these days). Mid way through the tune, smoke filled the stage enveloping the singer as he crouched toward the drum riser. When the breakdown kicked in and the smoke cleared, Brandon was wearing some sort of glowing demon mask! Although Incubus puts on an incredible live show, I had never seen showmanship like this! I laughed at first before deciding that I liked the strangeness of it all. Perhaps the theatrics were inspired by Brandon’s role as Judas in the (sadly) cancelled remake of Jesus Christ Superstar.
I could go on and on about each and every song in the set, dissecting ways they’ve changed and all the subtle nuances, but the details are frivolous. I wasn’t at the show in Clarkson, MI that prompted the Billboard article criticizing my dear Incubus but I’m not sure what they were hearing. Maybe the sound guy fucked up. Maybe the changes to the setlist (there were several, I checked) were the difference. Maybe the lads read the same article I did and decided to pick it up a notch. Regardless, one thing is for sure in my mind.
Incubus is the greatest band ever. Period.
Written by Alt360º Blogger: Jason Polakowski