Incubus | Santa Barbara | Review | Pics

Words by: L. Paul Mann | Images by Scott Dudelson & L. Paul Mann

Incubus :: 07.15.11 :: Santa Barbara Bowl :: Santa Barbara, CA

Incubus by L. Paul Mann
One of Santa Barbara's favorite live bands returned to the Santa Barbara Bowl on a beautiful, crystal clear Friday summer night. The hastily arranged concert, which was not part of a national tour, quickly sold out when the show was announced. In fact, there wasn't even time to find an opening act, to play the scheduled 7 pm starting time. Consequently, fans waited patiently, chatting, eating, drinking and savoring the summer twilight until the band finally arrived on stage just after 8 pm. Led by singer Brandon Boyd, the band wasted no time, launching straight into a string of some of their biggest hits.

Incubus has always been a maverick of sorts, selling more than 100,000 copies of their first album, Science, virtually by word of mouth alone with no help from radio stations or MTV. The band has had a long love-hate relationship with MTV, which, after ignoring the band’s early work, used its song “Privilege” on MTV Sports’ PlayStation releases. Subsequent music videos followed until the band released a video for 2003’s “Megalomaniac,” which MTV viewed as an attack on then-President Bush and banned. By then, the band had become too popular to control and had a subsequent Grammy nomination, multi-platinum album sales and a much-publicized break with Sony. Through it all, the band continued to grow musically and emotionally, and each subsequent album offered a new layer of sound and compelling lyrics. In 2003, bassist Ben Kenney of The Roots fame joined the group, adding a new funky layer to the music. His hip-hop sound is reminiscent of Master Les Claypool at times.

Incubus’ Ben Kenney by L. Paul Mann
Much like their last appearance at the Santa Barbara Bowl, two summers ago, the band played a compelling set, traveling through the time line of their rich catalog of material. Original drummer Jose Pasillas II and guitar player Mike Einziger laid down seamless rhythms, belying their strong ties that go all the way back to high school. With the band since 2003, Chris Kilmore added layers of keyboards and turntable skills, melding the complex music into new and adventurous territory. Kenney changed up the beat and at times seemed to lead the direction of the music.

The 95-minute set, ending well before the 10 pm curfew, actually seemed like it was much longer. This may have been partly due to the fact that many of the band’s favorite hit songs are short, just four or so minute pieces, and also because the band wasted little time bantering or tuning onstage and delivered the string of hit songs in lightning fashion. A massive video screen mixed artsy clips with high definition live shots of the band captured by a small army of competent cameramen. Add to this a stadium-ready light show and sound system and the concert became a multimedia extravaganza, captivating everyone’s attention in the crowd all the way to the back rows.

Incubus often reminds me of early R.E.M. in the way that lead singer Boyd blends complex lyrics into a trance-like dance synchronized to a rich, ever-changing atmosphere of sound that the band produces. In fact, Scott Litt, the producer for some of R.E.M.‘s best-known albums, took an interest in the band early on and helped them produce 1999’s Make Yourself, including the hits “Drive” and “Stellar.” But the band combines other elements of rock music that stretch from Pink Floyd-like grandiose tracks to funky Chili Pepper type jams, all mixed into their own unique sound. It is Boyd's brilliant trademark vocal style that is Incubus’ signature. Just like he has done several times before at the Santa Barbara Bowl, Boyd lead the creative flow with a unique and impeccable voice and and trance-like dancing that still seems to leave him possessed by, well, maybe an Incubus.

Megalomaniac, Wish You Were Here, Pardon Me, Have You Ever, Glass Play, Consequence, Anna Molly, Promises, Promises, Circles, In the Company of Wolves, The Original, I Miss You, Drive, Under My Umbrella, When It Comes, Adolescents, A Crow Left of the Murder

Encore: The Warmth, Nice To Know You

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