Concert Reviews

Incubus and Deftones Packed Out Gexa for an Early 2000s Alt-Rock Revival

With the Deftones and Death From Above 1979
Gexa Energy Pavillon, Dallas
Thursday, August 20

Thursday night Gexa Energy Pavilion hosted '90s alt gods Incubus and Deftones, just the sort of dual-headlining bill that it was built to host. A crowd near the 20,000 capacity stormed into Fair Park and got every bit the show it demanded from a dream early-2000s duo. The Deftones set 'em (all) up and Incubus shot 'em down in one of the best executed and most straightforward rock shows of the year.

As huge an international phenomenon as Incubus is, there was some debate amongst the crowd at Gexa regarding who should have taken the stage first. That probably doesn't happen everywhere; Texas is known Deftones territory. Chino Moreno and the boys from Sacramento took the stage like headliners Thursday just before 7:30 pm, with the crowd still filing in due to major traffic getting into the venue (sorry about that, DFA 1979), and promptly ripped Dallas a new one.

Without a recent release to support, the Deftones dispensed with pleasantries and opened the set with 2010's "Diamond Eyes" before diving into 2012's "Rocket Skates," dealing a heavy dose of guns, razors and knives up front. Keyboardist Frank Delgado announced his presence when "Rocket Skates" turned to its trippy keyboard change, and the night was off to a swimming start.
Moreno swooped into "Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)" with flying pterodactyl vocals toward the end of the song and began his assault on several microphones soon thereafter. The frontman was back and forth across the stage all set long, often requiring the cord untangling expertise of one especially badass roadie who was solely responsible for providing Chino the slack he needed to roam. Moreno had sweat through his outfit (pants and all) halfway through the set, even on the most temperate night of the summer.

Speaking of summer, the shade was a tool, a device and a savior not only for those in reserved seating Thursday, as the sun never poked through to scorch those in lawn seating — not even for "My Own Summer," which was the middle of a trifecta of songs off the 1997 release Around the Fur.

"Lhabia," one of the Deftones' classic entendres turned into a woman's name, was where Chino really sent the screams into overdrive, though. The band then took the crowd through three tracks from its seminal 2000 release White Pony. The Deftones would revisit the album later with two more toward the end of the set. It has become something of a Deftones live staple to stack "Feiticeira" and "Digital Bath" together back to back in the middle of a set, and when guitarist Stephen Carpenter started the opening riff on the former with his industrial strength fan blowing his wavy locks wild, it elicited the same response every time: pandamonium.

Moreno bade us all get our knives for a good old-fashioned "Knife Party" before contorting his voice later in the track into both his regular vocals and the guest-scream vocals, which were done on the White Pony album by the Quadraphonics' Rodleen Giecek. After the waves rolled in at the end of "Tempest," the Deftones went back to that album for two of the night's crowd favorites, "Passenger" and "Change (In the House of Flies)." Moreno again combined two throat-shredding vocal parts into one on "Passenger," singing Maynard James Keenan's portion as admirably as one not named Maynard James Keenan can.
"Change," now 15 years old, has never been more popular with the crowd inhabiting Gexa than it was Thursday. A collective, "Ahh, this is my jam" went up through the crowd before the obligatory cloud of smoke when Carpenter forebodingly picked the opening notes. Both Deftones and later Incubus reached back to 1995 at least once throughout their sets, a welcome play to the not-so-distant past for the legion of sweet-spot fans in the 22-40 demographic. The Deftones finished with the chaotic "Headup" (in which Moreno wished the late Dimebag Darrell a happy birthday) and "Engine No. 9" before giving way to Incubus, who were justifiably billed as No. 1 to the Deftones' 1A. 

From the huge initial reception for "Nice to Know You" as everyone was still filing into seats post-potty break, the Dallas crowd was enraptured with Incubus — and more specifically with the sultry Brandon Boyd, clad (for half the set, anyway) in a denim button down and skinny jeans. Imagine that: Boyd's shirt coming off for the second half of the set. The way the crowd hung on Moreno's every move made one wonder whether the Deftones would steal the show, but when Boyd slunk out from backstage after a brief instrumental intro, it was clear who Dallas came to see.

The clan from Calabasas meandered through a best-of set for the rest of the night, plowing through 18 songs in a little over an hour and a half on the unseasonably cool evening that seemed tailor made for a badass outdoor concert. After getting everyone jumping with "Anna Molly," Incubus got to its first real crowd favorite, "Circles." Mike Einziger's opening riff and Boyd's shrieks during the refrain lit Gexa up as the energy shot up a notch and good karma was spread all around.

"Are You In" was the band's way of telling Dallas to get settled, because there was still a long night ahead. "Sick Sad Little World" was the second example of an Einziger opening riff and its chilling effects on a 20,000-person mass. The crowd hung on every change, and on Einziger's extended guitar solo. 
Incubus fit two efforts from last May's Trust Fall (Side A) EP into the middle of the show, following the title track with 2011's "In the Company of Wolves" to slow things down midway through the set. Boyd donned a mask vaguely similar to Marvel supervillain Galactus midway through "Wolves," with color-changing LED light eye squares. After the brief lull, it got really real. "Wish You Were Here" was child's play for Boyd's vocal range and pure muscle memory for the rest of the band but came off as crisp and sincere as a 14-year-old mainstay possibly can. It was startling to hear a full Gexa sing "I Wish You Were Here" back to Boyd if you hadn't looked back at the lawn all evening. It was absolutely packed. 

"I Miss You" was every bit the three-fold utopian dream Boyd sang about. The end of the classic Incubus love song wasn't quite the expected moment for Incubus and Boyd in particular to wish a happy birthday to the late Dimebag, but hey, Dallas will take it. It was certainly a nice bit of recognition for the local metal hero from a group every bit the international rock sensation.

Incubus hit the home stretch hard by stacking "Pardon Me," "Megalomaniac" and "Stellar" back-to-back-to-back toward the end of the show. The former started off slowly, Boyd cooing the first verse to the crowd before the rest of the band came in for the first go of the incendiary refrain. The obvious crowd favorite gave way to what might have been a surprising best-effort of the night in 2004's "Megalomaniac." DJ and keyboardist Chris Kilmore let his flowing dreads fly during the raucous chorus, adding to the crowd's hysteria when his head banging image made it up on the monitors. Boyd led Incubus into a little Nirvana "Come as You Are" interlude in the middle of the song before he bade the crowd step down one more time in the final chorus.

But Boyd still had Dallas meet him in outer space for "Stellar" before "Drive"-ing the crowd home with two more crowd favorites and ending the night on "A Crow Left of the Murderer." About the only way you came away from the show disappointed is if you came to hear "Warning" and "Here in My Room," which were noticeably left off the setlist. 

Deftones setlist
Diamond Eyes
Rocket Skates
Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)
My Own Summer
Digital Bath
Knife Prty
When Girls Telephone Boys
Swerve City
Change (In the House of Flies)
Engine No. 9

Incubus setlist
S.T.A.Y. (intro)
Nice to Know You
Anna Molly
Absolution Calling
Are You In
Sick Sad Little World
Trust Fall
In the Company of Wolves
Wish You Were Here
I Miss You
Love Hurts
Pardon Me
A Crow Left of the Murder

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Matt Martinez is a DFW-lifer who handles the Observer's editorial social media channels when he's not waxing cynical in our news, food and music verticals. Rest assured, he hates your favorite team. Matt studied journalism at the University of Texas and then again, for some reason, at UNT. He has written for the Austin Chronicle, the Denton Record-Chronicle and currently writes sports for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Contact: Matthew Martinez