Incubus have come a long way from their roots in Calabasas, California. The Los Angeles suburb in the San Fernando Valley was where the alt/rock group formed in the mid-1990s, before Brandon Boyd and his band mates exploded on the global level thanks to their breakout 1999 album Make Yourself. (Guitarist Michael Einziger recently spoke with Rock Cellar about the band’s career in a candid chat — click here to check that out).
Nearly 20 years later, the band returned home Monday night for a sold-out concert at the world famous Hollywood Bowl, and it was quite a sight to see. That Incubus — who released a new album, 8, earlier in the year — is still capable of selling out a venue as huge as the Bowl at this stage in their career shows you how much of an impact they’ve made on the scene over the years.
And taking a look around the Bowl’s seats during the night, it was easy to see how this was possible. In addition to the now thirtysomethings that grew up on the band’s music in the late ’90s (including this reviewer), many of them had small children with them, as the music of Incubus has now become a multi-generational thing, even as their original rap/rock/funk sound has waned in commercial popularity.
But therein lies the strength of the band’s songwriting over the years. After their first two raucous albums, Incubus ‘mellowed out’ a bit with Morning View, A Crow Left of the Murder and the next handful of records, leading up to the hushed sounds explored on 2011’s If Not Now, When? and much of the newest album, 8. Their steadfast willingness to remain true to themselves record to record allowed Incubus to remain relevant and broaden their audience.
That audience was delighted throughout the band’s nearly two-hour set, which touched on almost every album (except for 1997’s S.C.I.E.N.C.E). But more on that in a bit.
Opening the show at the early hour of 6:45 were Judah and the Lion, a Nashville-based group with an interesting sound incorporating banjos, mandolins, accordions and hip-hop pop, not to mention lively dancing on stage. They covered the Killers’ “Mr. Brightside,” with vocalist Judah Akers mentioning, “This was our favorite song in third grade:”
During the band’s final song, the single “Take It All Back,” Akers ran out into the crowd and sprinted all the way to the very top of the Hollywood Bowl seats — which is quite a journey, considering the venue’s massive size. It was wild.
After a short break, Arizona’s Jimmy Eat World took the stage for their main support set.
The band, whose latest record Integrity Blues was a particularly poignant listen, played a few cuts from it in addition to several of their hits, of course, including “The Middle,” “Sweetness” and “Big Casino,” with front man Jim Adkins doing his best to make the typically laid-back Bowl crowd rise to its feet and dance in the aisles.
When they turned down the tempo for the Bleed American track “Hear You Me,” though, it provided one of the night’s most affecting moments, as thousands of concertgoers held up their lighters/cell phones, a gesture that fits the song’s reflective and melancholy feel:
Jimmy Eat World are consummate masters of their craft, and it showed in another fine set from one of the alt/rock scenes most hard-working bands.
Around 9 PM, Incubus hit the stage and set the tone for the night — they’d be playing a lot of new material. After opening their set with “Love in a Time of Surveillance,” the band danced around their rich catalog of music, adding in eight of the new album’s 11 tracks before calling it an evening. Beyond the new material, though, were hits. Many hits.
“Warning,” “Anna Molly,” “Megalomaniac,” “Drive,” “Pardon Me,” “Stellar,” “Dig,” and “Nice to Know You” all made appearances, as did “Wish You Were Here” — which also featured an outro of Pink Floyd’s song of the same name, a nice touch:
For the dedicated fans, a highlight of the set was easily the A Crow Left of the Murder back-to-back of “Sick Sad Little World” and “Pistola”, which was jammed out and even incorporated a fun tease of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” for good measure.
After this marathon set, which seemed a bit special since it was a hometown show (guitarist Michael Einziger and Boyd joked about how they used to come to the Bowl as kids to watch fireworks on the 4th of July), one thing is apparent: Incubus is a stellar live band (pun very much intended). They don’t seem to tour that often, let alone release records these days (as there were six years between studio albums in 2011 and 2017), but when they do they really put everything they have into their performance.
The band’s current tour wraps up on October 3 at Red Rocks in Colorado, and after that? Who knows what they’ll be up to. They could go quiet again, or they could keep on touring…we’ll have to wait and see.
But for two hours on Monday night, everything felt pretty perfect.
Incubus’ set list:
“Love in a Time of Surveillance”
“Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd WYWH Outtro)”
“State of the Art”
Sick Sad Little World”
“Make No Sound in the Digital Forest”
“Nice to Know You”