Incubus, Jimmy Eat World Take Houston Back to Alt-Rock’s Heyday

Brandon Boyd of Incubus
Brandon Boyd of Incubus Photo by Violeta Alvarez
Incubus, Jimmy Eat World
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
August 4, 2017

Incubus has been a household name for nearly 20 years now.

The band’s third studio album, 1999’s Make Yourself, propelled the California quintet into the mainstream with “Pardon Me,” “Stellar” and “Drive.” Since then, however, Incubus’s catalog has been a mixed bag.

Their follow-up, Morning View, was a criminally underrated record, but the band rebounded commercially with 2004’s A Crow Left of the Murder and 2006’s Light Grenades.

Following an extended hiatus, the band released If Not Now, When?, which sounded more like elevator music than rock and roll. And though this year’s 8 isn’t a bad record, it isn’t a memorable one either.

Photo by Violeta Alvarez
But on Friday night, at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, it may as well have been 1999. Houstonians packed the venue for Incubus’s first visit to the Bayou City in two years, and fans seemed as energetic as ever, even with their kids in tow.

The band began its set with the opening tracks from Light Grenades before transitioning into “Nimble Bastard,” the lead single from 8. “Bastard” sounded much better live than on record, packing more of a punch than its album counterpart.

Fans were noticeably less engaged during the new track, but Incubus seemed to have anticipated this. The band immediately returned to its hits and went on to pepper its set with newer songs in between crowd-pleasing anthems like “Wish You Were Here” and “Nice to Know You.”

Photo by Violeta Alvarez
Near the halfway point of the show, following “Wish You Were Here,” Incubus faithfully performed the third verse of Pink Floyd’s song of the same name. The crowd roared with applause before the band launched into “Pardon Me,” in which Brandon Boyd ruminates on spontaneous combustion being a welcome reprieve from life.

For the encore, lead guitarist Mike Einziger emerged from backstage with a sitar in hand for “Aqueous Transmission,” the most soothing song the band has ever written. Lighters and cell phones were lifted high into the air as Boyd crooned to the crowd about floating down the river of life before leaving the stage with a bow and a heartfelt “gracias.”

Their latest album is a little rough around the edges, but it’s their first in seven years. If their live performance was any indication, there’s plenty of life left in Incubus’s tank. Hopefully, their next record will see the band renew their creative bent, if only with a better title.

click to enlarge Jimmy Eat World - PHOTO BY VIOLETA ALVAREZ
Jimmy Eat World
Photo by Violeta Alvarez
So, How Was the Opener?: Jimmy Eat World put on a great performance, but the masses were clearly there to see Incubus. The band saved their two biggest hits – “Sweetness” and “The Middle” – for the end of their performance, finally goading the crowd into standing up and jumping along before exiting the stage.

Personal Bias: Despite the fact that my wife would probably drop me for Boyd, I’m a pretty big fan of Incubus’s music. Their latest album wasn’t anything groundbreaking, but I’ll always be a fan of the band’s earlier work.

A Kiss to Send Us Off
Nimble Bastard
Anna Molly
Love Hurts
Here in My Room
Wish You Were Here
Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd cover)
State of the Art
Pardon Me
Love in a Time of Surveillance
Sick Sad Little World
Throw Out the Map
Nice to Know You

Aqueous Transmission
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Matt is a regular contributor to the Houston Press’ music section. He graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in print journalism and global business. Matt first began writing for the Press as an intern, having accidentally sent his resume to the publication's music editor instead of the news chief. After half a decade of attending concerts and interviewing musicians, he has credited this fortuitous mistake to divine intervention.
Contact: Matthew Keever