Friday Night: Incubus At The Woodlands

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Incubus Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion September 30, 2011

Aftermath's dirty little theory is that Incubus is probably one of the most critically underrated modern-rock bands of the past decade. Or, they are justly compartmentalized as a blustery Southern California group whose dreamboat lead singer in Brandon Boyd has enough snaky lyrical chops to make him seem dark and mysterious, backed by some talented musicians including a Harvard-trained guitarist in lead man Mike Einziger.

Here's the thing. Aftermath digs Incubus, but only the Incubus we met in 2001 with the band's artistic leap, Morning View. As we said Friday night, we like our Incubus "Sunny 99.1 Up," meaning we tend to push away the loud, fun old stuff and gravitate to the light-rock, beachy shit like "Are You In?"

But Friday night's show was a strong, voluminous effort, and reminded us what an expertly crafted, well-lit and designed, straight-ahead rock-show experience could be. Neverminding the sandals, girls having photo shoots around us, and rich-kid weed hanging moist in the air. OK, the latter we had no problem with. #brah

The band is touring behind this year's If Not Now, When? which has been one of the most surprisingly satisfying albums we've pushed "play" on this year. The sort of rave-ups that we are used to from the band are on When? in the form of "Adolescents" and "Switchblade," and Friday's set leaned heavy on the brooding shades of of the new material, bringing the brothers and sisters of the album's sound from the rest of their catalog along for the ride.

The night began with the aggressive Bush-era relic "Megalomaniac" from 2004's A Crow Left Of the Murder - for sure a nod to the oncoming Perry regime scare - before softly falling back to Earth with "Wish You Were Here." Friday night's weather, a cool fall breeze and a hanging fingernail of a Moon looming over the Pavilion lawn, wasn't such a bad bonus either (stupid hippie). The nights of sweating at Cynthia Woods may be over for 2011.

Correct us if we are off base - and you no doubt will - but does anyone see a correlation between Incubus and Pearl Jam? Aftermath can't place it. Maybe it's Boyd and Eddie Vedder's similar stage personas, the arms-wide-open balladeering, and the earnest revelry. Pearl Jam without the God complex? The politics? The extensive singles repertoire?

Boyd most definitely has aged as well as Vedder, and the women in the audience let him know it. By the halfway mark in the set, his shirt was open, and by the encore he had been bare-chested for a while. Every move he made was met with what sounded like a jet engine of estrogen revving up behind our seats. Sometimes it all came from the same female, like the one behind us who kept screaming about how hard she would fuck him.

As the band's sound has changed over the past few years, DJ Chris Kilmore has turned into a worthy instrumentalist, creating more atmosphere with the keys and sound manipulation than before. When he had to add the odd hook and scratch to the mix Friday, it was a quaint reminder of Incubus circa 1999, when bands still had DJs and it was just accepted. That year's Make Yourself reared its pretty, hooky head a few times Friday night in the form of "Consequence," "Drive" and an encore run of "Pardon Me".

Incubus is a rarity on rock radio in that they keep making interesting aural choices, never boring or rote, and they have been slowly building a catalog that is a joy to return to every now and then; when we can can stand the '90s effects, that is. The snobby thing to say is that plenty of the lushness of Incubus goes over their radio fans' heads.

There has always been a lot more going on in the head space of this modern-rock band than casual fans probably ever saw, and Friday night was a reminder of that.

Lastly - so no one throws one of their Toms at us - we did just miss openers Young The Giant while getting into the venue. Sorta like a indie-rock Blue October, if you are scared to like Blue October. We caught them at ACL a few weeks back and weren't blown away, but they are serviceable. Give them a few more albums, that's our verdict. We do think "Cough Syrup" is a grand single, though.

Personal Bias: This chill-ass shit from 2002. Come sit down man, you have the stuff?

The Crowd: Jesus, didn't Enjoy Incubus almost come out 15 years ago? Most of the kids at this show were barely walking in 1997, when Friday's headliners were a Red Hot Chili Peppers quasi-tribute act.

Overheard in the Crowd: The coolest thing we saw Friday night was a father and his two older kids rocking the hell out in their vintage Incubus shirts. Oh, and the drunk grandma noodle-dancing for nearly two hours straight, and her aggravated date sitting down with his head in his hands, in between bursts of attempting to grab her ass.

Random Notebook Dump: We really wanted to hear "Love Hurts" from the band's 2009 double-disc hits set Monuments And Melodies, but this new material made up for it.


Megalomaniac Wish You Were Here Adolescents Anna Molly Promises, Promises If Not Now, When? Privilege Consequence Vitamin In the Company of Wolves Defiance Talk Shows On Mute Are You In? Circles Dig Drive Switchblade Nice to Know You


Pardon Me Tomorrow's Food

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