Incubus, Deftones, Death From Above 1979, The Bots
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
August 19, 2015
Wednesday night’s show up at the Pavilion really could have used a catchy name of some sort. Something silly, something summer-y, something that would look good on a T-shirt. Something that would be a wink and nod to the fact that this tour is so good in an amphitheater that it makes a Wednesday night feel like a Saturday festival.
The unknown up-and-coming act, the out-of-place but talented band, the workhorse that everyone loves and the star attraction you could can bank on — these are tropes you see at festivals all the time, but they’re part of what makes them special too. It’s the bang you get for your buck.
The two bands on top of this bill come from a similar time and share a similar sound, but seeing them live provides for very different, but complimentary experiences. Deftones are the band who never became the megastars they should have been, but they’ve got that devoted fanbase that will always have their back. Incubus are the band who were always going to be stars, their hooks too good and their singer to beautiful for the band to fail. They’ve been off the radar for a bit, so their return to Houston felt bigger thanks to the distance/heart/fonder thing.
Deftones were up first, and the striking thing about them in 2015 is how they managed to continue to have so much energy onstage. That’s not to say they haven’t lost a step or two, just that they’ve managed to compensate in the right ways to make their show a satisfying experience. Seeing them on a big stage with summer tour production was a bit surreal, but they made good use of the video walls, using a selection of filtered and distorted to hell clips from old films to highlight the underlying creepiness of some of their tracks.
They’re the rare “nostalgia” act who are still putting out really rocking tunes; “Tempest” sounds like a right and proper monster live. The slightly older “Sextape” is basically a perfect summer tour song: so loved by fans are the band that the crowd never had that “OK, we can all sit down” moment that a lot of opening co-headliners have.
Deftones aren’t an easy band to follow. Unless you’re Metallica-level, having a band like Deftones come on right before you raises the bar for your performance. You have to be damn secure in your abilities if you’re going to headline.
Incubus, as it turns out, didn’t have anything to worry about. As stated above, the crowd apparently really missed the band (Setlist.fm suggests this might have been their first Houston date since 2012), and although they don’t have the same aggressive energy of Deftones, they do have a strong catalogue that people were real eager to sing.
Come to find out, their new tracks are pretty solid live, too. “Absolution Calling” is a damn fun song, and already seems to be a bit of a crowd favorite.
But mostly, as you’d guess, the crowd were there to sing the old stuff. And although “Pardon Me” and the Morning View-era tracks all got massive cheers, the most interesting part of the night was their performance of “In the Company of Wolves,” which saw Brandon Boyd wear a horned mask with lighted eyes. Something about the mask unlocked a new level charisma for him, and it was can’t-tear-your-eyes away interesting.
There was a slow but steady trickle of folks hitting the exit before Incubus wrapped up their set, but it wasn’t their fault. While it may have felt like a Saturday, deep down everyone knew that it was really a Wednesday, and Thursday was only a few hours of sleep away.
But for a few hours it was like getting an extra bit of weekend, which is about the best thing you can get during the summer touring season.
So, How Was The Opener? I totally understand why some folks were bummed that Death From Above 1979 were spending their summer in an opening slot on this tour than doing their own thing. I’m inclined to agree with them. While I recognize their talent and will admit that they had some moments of brilliance onstage, this is the second time I’ve seen them (the first being at a festival) where I was slightly underwhelmed. And I don’t think they’re to blame; it’s a circumstances thing. If I saw them indoors, headlining their own gig, maybe things would click. But I’m glad they were there; it could have been [insert a nu-metal band you dislike here]. As for The Bots, Houston traffic kept me from catching most of their set, but what I did catch was pretty good, and I would like to know more.
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Personal Bias: While I like to think that if I saw a bad Deftones show I would say so, and while I know they’ve put on some bad shows in the past (but even then, Drunk Chino is kind of a thing of beauty), maybe I’ve just been really lucky in that I’ve yet to see one I disliked. But I’m a Deftones Stan, so I’m glad this personal bias section exists so that it’s noted for the record that I am. As for Incubus, my favorite song of theirs is “New Skin," I once made an ex-gf listen to "Stellar" far too much, and I still don't understand how Morning View ended up with such terrible production.
The Crowd: Deftones fans trend towards black shirts. Incubus fans are a little more colorful.
Overheard In the Crowd: “Hey man, do you mind if I smoke?” asked a considerate smoker to my left. The guy behind with it was fine as long as he could bum a cigarette from him. Temporary friendships are a beautiful, smelly, cancer-causing thing.
Random Notebook Dump: Seeing Weird Al/Deftones back-to-back nights should be the highlight of my concert year, but next month has The Get Up Kids back-to-back with Godspeed You! Black Emperor. #Blessed