Last Night: Incubus and Young the Giant at Gexa Energy Pavilion

Incubus, Young the Giant
Gexa Energy Pavillion
September 29, 2011

Better than: sitting at home playing a bongo shirtless... by myself.

riving up to Gexa Energy Pavillion last night was greeted with an impressive light show. 

Not only was the iconic Texas Star Ferris Wheel illuminated to mark the beginning of the Texas State Fair, but a crazy lightning storm (that would end up being a major player in the evening) was also brewing.

Sure, Incubus was in town in support of their latest effort, If Not Now, When?, but Mother Nature had other plans. 

Sometime after Young the Giant finished their set, the crowds were told to go to their cars in anticipation of a huge rain storm that was on its way. The show, the audience was told, would begin after the storm passed. 

A few minutes of slight chaos turned into about an hour of trying to pass the time, watching cell phone doppler radars and Twitter for updates. Hardly anyone actually left the venue, though; even those in the cheap seats. 

It's a good thing they didn't, too: After a short power outage, Incubus hit the stage and wasted no time getting right to the hits. 

"Thank you for the light show, Dallas," said lead-singer Brandon Boyd after his band opened with "Megalomaniac", a song that takes aim at former president (and current Dallas resident) George W. Bush. "We don't get stuff like that in California."

One might be quick to judge Incubus' relevance today, but you can't deny the back catalog: The boys from Calabasas have been churning out hits for the better part of 10 years now. As such, last night's set was heavy with selections from 2001's Morning View and 2004's A Crow Left of the Murder. As a matter of fact, only one song from the band's excellent first major-label record, S.C.I.E.N.C.E., made it into the set. This is, of course, due to the fact that their audience has changed drastically through the years. Chances are, your mom knows the lyrics to "Drive." Such is the result of crossover success. 

It's been interesting to watch such a high-energy band mature. Their songs are performed more deliberately, with more emphasis on actually making each song sound good and not just covering it up with headbanging and a DJ. Guitarist Mike Einziger has always embodied that demeanor; standing stage left, almost uncomfortably separated from the rest of the band, his offering last night was no different. The Harvard grad has to be one of the most creative and underrated guitarists out there.

The night also saw Incubus play more than a few songs from the new record; the tracks received a largely lukewarm reaction. The borderline adult contemporary jams just don't translate well in such a large space. Of course it was the high-energy classics like "Pardon Me" and "Nice to Know You" that got the biggest reaction from this young crowd. But there were updates, too; "Dig", a huge radio hit from Light Grenades, got the remix treatment and was made to sound new again. 

For a band that, for the most part, has been able to evolve with their mainstream success while still keeping most of their devoted fans, one has to wonder if those fans will continue to follow them in this new, more lite-rock direction. 

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
I've been an Incubus fan since high school. Even the last few records. But this latest effort is just not very good. It sounds like it should have just been a Boyd solo album. I'm all for trying something different, but this one just sounds too out of place when compared to the rest of their work.

Random Note: I've always been fascinated by the female reaction to Brandon Boyd's clothing status. It seems the older he gets, the longer that shirt stays on. Back in the days, he'd be half naked with a bongo strapped over his shoulder by song number two. Nowadays, that thing stays buttoned up through eight songs or more. Such a tease.

By the way: Anyone else notice how much Boyd is looking like Jonathan Tyler (of the Northern Lights fame) these days? 

Incubus Set List:
Wish You Were Here
Anna Molly
Promises, Promises
If Not Now, When?
Have You Ever?
In the Company of Wolves
Talk Shows on Mute
Are You In?
A Crow Left of the Murder
Nice to Know You

Pardon Me
Tomorrow's Food

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