Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Concert Review: Incubus

I have racked my brain trying to come up with something to talk about regarding the Twins and every single one of my ideas is either negative, or it's been talked about a billion times around the Twins blogosphere. So rather than rehash an old issue or needlessly bleat about one of the myriad of problems this team has had this year, I'm going to do something I've never done in the space before and review a concert. If you don't like Incubus, that's ok, there are a bunch of other good pieces about the Twins out there and I promise I'll have another Twins-related post up here soon.

On Sunday night had the the true pleasure of attending the Incubus concert at the Charter Pavillion at Northerly Island here in downtown Chicago. I've been a fan of Incubus for many years - I honestly don't know most of the lyrics to their songs, I'm just in love with their chord progressions and melodies...and Brandon Boyd's voice. My wife and I are celebrating our 3rd anniversary this coming week and she actually surprised me with these tickets (great gift) and one thought I had on the way there was, "will they sound as good in-person as they do on their CDs?" I think that's a legit question of any band these days, especially in an age where even a crappy singer can be made to sound good with studio magic. No need to fear with Incubus, Boyd's voice is just dynamic and pitch-perfect in-person which really made the whole concert for me.

As you can see, we were sitting a little off to the left side of the stage, but that's one of the great things about the Charter Pavillion - no matter where you're sitting/standing, you're not that far away and you have a good view of the stage. The opener for Incubus was 'The Nightwatchman' which is Tom Morello's (RATM fame) "political folk alter ego" band. Let me say this: Morello is known for his electric guitar talents and not his voice and there's a reason for that; his voice is not good. In fact, he doesn't really have a voice, he just talks the lyrics to his songs loudly into the microphone. Morello still worked in a number of bombastic guitar solos into his songs, but whenever he was "singing", it wasn't that enjoyable. That said, they did a good job of firing up the crowd and I guess that's all that's expected of an opener...and it was cool to see Morello play even if we did have to listen to the singing as well.

It took awhile to switch sets, but it was worth the wait. Incubus opened up with 'Pardon Me' and overall, the concert was a good mix of old and new. My personal favorites were "The Warmth", "Anna Molly", and "If Not Now, When?", "In the Company of Wolves" and "Megalomaniac". "The Warmth", in particular, was fantastic...that song was an introduction of sorts between Incubus and I and I love the message of the song, "don't let the world bring you down."

As for Incubus' new stuff, I've read a number of reviews (mostly negative) and I'd like to add my own 'two cents'. A number of reviews I read said that they feel as though Incubus has lost their way with their new album "If Not Now, When?" I have to disagree. Firstly, Incubus took their longest career hiatus after their last album "Light Grenades" in 2006. Their stated reason for taking that break was essentially to re-charge their creative energy after years of constant touring and music-making. As lead-singer Brandon Boyd put it, "I think that we, collectively, were feeling like if we didn't step away from this monster that we created then it would begin to consume us. [...] We had to plant some roots, lest we start to write songs about living on a tour bus. So we had to fall in love, we had to fall out of love, we had to make homes." My point is, an extended hiatus is going to change the music a bit because the people have changed. Secondly, Incubus has been around now for nearly 20 years and while some bands essentially maintain one kind of sound throughout their lifetimes, some bands evolve and change their sound...you simply have to learn to appreciate their different styles.

Another review I read said, "Instead of tremendous riffs and melodies, this album comes off as the Brandon Boyd show, volume II. Sure, his vocals and lyrics continue to prove amicable, but the rest of the band is almost non-existent." Um, hello, Incubus is Brandon Boyd...more precisely, Incubus is Boyd's vocal - so what if it's the "Brandon Boyd" show...that's who I want to hear! I get it, if you like the grunge-rock sound of their early albums or the up-tempo melodies of their early-to-mid 2000's album, then this album would be kinda disappointing. But hey, you've got 6 other albums to listen to that will fulfill your desires. I think it's interesting to hear another side of them, and I like the more soft-rock feel of this album. I think some of the lyrics are pretty juvenile at times, but that's par for the course with Incubus, Boyd has always been a somewhat sub-par lyricist.

The bottom-line is that I had a great time at this show and it was well worth the money. Incubus has just started their tour so if you like their music and you're interested in seeing them, I highly recommend it. The only song that they didn't play that I wished they would have was "Dig" from their "Light Grenades" album - my wife and I both love that song. It was a great night, beautiful weather, a great venue and two days later I still have the "concert buzz".

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