For the better part of the past decade, Incubus has been one of the forefront bands in mainstream rock. Since 1999’s Make Yourself, they have gone on to sell over 7 million records, spawning several huge radio singles in the process. On tour in support of last year’s Light Grenades, their sixth album, they brought their powerful live show to the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Irvine last Friday.
Before the main event, The Bravery had the job of getting things started and, for the most part, the New York quintet performed well. The band began with the energetic duo of “Fearless” and “Believe,” kicking things off on a high note. However, the rest of their 11-song, 45-minute set wasn’t without its share of ups and downs.
Splitting their songs almost evenly between their self-titled debut and this year’s The Sun And The Moon, the band was at its best with the latter and failed to impress during the former. Outside of the opener and the hit “An Honest Mistake,” the older material tended to mesh together and skewer towards a generic styling of similar sounding bands. The newer material, such as “Time Won’t Let Me Go” and “Every Word Is A Knife In My Ear,” fared much better, showing an improved musicianship and songwriting ability while employing a fuller rock sound.
Performance-wise, guitarist Michael Zakarin threw in a couple nice solos, and lead singer Sam Endicott’s voice translated fairly well live, although he did struggle a bit on some of the higher notes. He also needs to learn to keep a guitar in his hands at all times because on the few songs without one, he flailed about with the mike stand in tow, demonstrating an awkward stage presence. Overall, the band’s show was solid if unspectacular, merely providing a glimpse at their future potential.
In front of a roaring, sold-out crowd, Incubus opened with the subdued “Quicksand” before blasting into the rocking trio of “A Kiss To Send Us Off,” “Nice To Know You” and “Anna Molly.” The remainder of the hour and forty-five minutes consisted of an eclectic 18-song set list, which should have come as no surprise to fans of the band.
While hits like “Stellar,” “Drive,” “Megalomaniac,” “Dig,” and their latest “Oil And Water” were scattered throughout, the band also went deep into their catalogue with songs “Nowhere Fast,” “Circles,” “Pistola,” “Here In My Room,” a b-side to Light Grenades entitled “Punch-Drunk,” a cover of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” and even dusted off oldie “Summer Romance (Anti-Gravity Love Song).” Noticeably missing were classics “Pardon Me” and “Wish You Were Here,” as well as others like “Warning” and “Talk Shows On Mute,” but these omissions proved to be the set’s only disappointments.
The Calabasas five-piece is an undeniably gifted group of musicians, and that talent was on full display over the course of the night. Lead singer Brandon Boyd has arguably the purest voice in rock music today, and his vocals were pitch perfect the entire time. Guitarist Mike Einziger demonstrated his amazing creativity with several impressive solos, and the band wasn’t afraid to break out into some improvised jam sessions as well. This was no more apparent than during their striking rendition of “Sick Sad Little World,” which featured remarkable drum, bass, and guitar solos, one right after another.
With no pyrotechnics or fancy light show sharing the spotlight, Incubus let their music stand for itself. After being together for over 15 years, it is rare to see a band like this continually push themselves musically while at the same time maintaining a high level of quality. Therefore it was only fitting they chose to close with the Asian-tinged “Aqueous Transmission,” complete with Einziger playing the Japanese instrument pipa, going out in their own unique style. As Friday’s night performance indicated, this is a band clearly in their prime.