It was 6:13pm when Security made their way down the shaded grey steps of Margaret Court Arena to set up for entry into the night’s Incubus show. The early dribble of eager fans was pushed back out into the sun and formalised into four queues ready to enter the venue at 6:30pm.
It was around an hour later that indie/alternative support act Ecca Vandal burst on to the stage in her home city; the Queen reigning the stage in red – effervescent and poised in her confidence.
Vandal, and her band, powered through their ten-song set, which included dance hits such as White Flag, Cassettes Lies and Video Tape, and Future Heroine. Unfortunately, most of it was performed to a half-filled venue with the audience very slowly making their way through to the main venue, and probably waiting around outside the doors for the main act to arrive.
It’s not an easy feat opening for a rock act who have been doing what they are doing for almost 30 years, and who have such dedicated fans – and to face a crowd who are mostly unfamiliar with your work. However, Vandal performed like that venue was packed to the brim with a torrent of energy in her soulful vocals and pulsating dance moves. Three songs in Vandal turned to the crowd and exclaimed ‘I know this is a rock show but I wanna see you dancing with me.’ Her set did include a few rockier tracks such as Truth To Trade which were very well received. There’s no doubt in my mind that she walked away at the end of her performance with a few new fans – myself included.
As the stage was being set for Incubus, and the quintessential rugs were being placed on stage, the bulk of the audience – with drinks in hand – flowed through to fill the room from the floor to the upper seats. The lights faded and in the darkness the band were ushered onto the stage before backlighting met with the spotlights to mark the beginning of this Incubus set.
They opened with Glitterbomb, off their latest album ‘8’ and from the get-go proved that they have only become better over time. They remain one of the tightest bands you will ever see, and tonight there was a beautiful synchronisation between the sound, the lights and the visuals that amalgamated into what felt like a single entity. The crowd were in rapture as the band sprouted into their element during the song’s instrumental section.
Next up was Circles which had everyone bopping along right from the ripper of an opening riff by guitarist Mike Einziger. The song ended with an eased breakdown of the original composition, with singer Brandon Boyd joining in on percussion with his own booming bass drum.
Everyone was dancing to Nimble Bastard with people across the crowd striking their own ‘air drums’ along with drummer José Pasillas. The sound was so spot on, and the band were slick – never overplaying a single note or missing a single beat. Pasillas then counted in the ever-popular Anna Molly, directing in the song’s familiar guitar riffs which were filled by the booming of Ben Kenney’s bass. Boyd was endearing as ever, emotively conveying the melodies and lyrics with a deep passion.
A patter of drums was met with distorted effects which formed the introduction to Megalomaniac. As soon as that opening riff was strummed the audience was engrossed. This song, written during the George W. Bush-era of American politics seems more pertinent than ever, with that idiot they call the American President in office now. The band and crowd chanted the enflamed lyrics of the song with a highly-charged resentment at the state of our world today.
It was under the haze of pink and blue lights that State of the Art was performed; the melodic chorus unfolding against the backdrop of a flower blooming on the stage screen. The band continued to play off one another creating these perfect dynamics of delivery.
The hum of the bass shaped the pulse of Pardon Me which excited the audience – clearly full of a lot of long-time Incubus fans. When Boyd reached the line “seems like a definite possibility…” the audience were enthralled and met the singer with a loud chant of “…to me” before everyone broke out into the chorus. It was one of the night’s magical moments when that final chorus played out. The crowd had suddenly entwined with the band and everything peaked so beautifully.
The intimate and stripped-back Pantomime followed the melodies of Purple Shoes. Pantomime had Boyd play the first part on guitar unaccompanied; gently singing and strumming along with the singing crowd. It wasn’t until the song’s second chorus that the whole band came in to belt out the rest of the track.
This was followed by Nice To Know You – probably one of the audience’s favourites as they ate this song up! Everyone was pumped as soon as Kenney hit that leading bass line, with a little mosh pit forming near the front. I think most of the crowd have at one time or another smashed out a passionate rendition of this song to ourselves, and tonight everyone was roaring with vigour as they sang along with the incensed track.
Sick Sad Little World was another song that was met with delight. The intergalactic effects; the beats and the runs of the song were all performed with finesse. It is one of those songs that breathes a life of its own when it comes together in a live setting; a song you underestimate the power of when simply listening to the recording.
Stellar was to follow and this performance of it was particularly sentimental. I don’t think I realised quite how romantic this song was until this moment (and I have listened to it a thousand times and seen it performed live before). There was something that aligned tonight that made it just that little bit more divine.
A gripping, yet subdued performance of Talk Shows On Mute was performed with a twist – Incubus taking on INXS and melding the end of the song with a sexy rendition of Need You Tonight that had everyone completely thrilled.
The grumbling bass and Boyd’s chanting set the foundation for the monstrous Vitamin which harkened back to the band’s second full-length album ‘S.C.I.E.N.C.E.’ People were jumping from the front right to the back of the floor as I don’t think anyone was expecting a song from the band’s much earlier catalogue. Boyd, with his bongo drum, and Passilas had a mini-drum battle before DJ Chris Kilmore rigorously scratched out the beat. It was another highlight of the night.
Things slowed down for Loneliest as everyone needed a chance to catch their breath again – although the song still generated a crowd surfer floating to the front of the crowd. The main set was completed with Wish You Were Here which had everyone grooving and singing along; phones in hand to capture the moment. Yes, there were even a few lighters out in amongst the swaying hands (when Boyd sand the lyrics ‘I signal them with my lighter’). It was stunning when he sang ‘my hands are busy in the air saying’ as everyone’s hands were in the air and singing along for the song’s final chorus. They rounded out the song by melting into Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here which fell on happy audience ears.
The show’s encore consisted of three songs; No Fun; an eased performance of Drive; and the final culmination of the night in an understated performance of Warning.
Incubus once again proved their prowess, coming together as a unified force. It was a night filled with the wonderful waxing and waning of musical moments that were performed with finesse and delivered with an ardour that was equally matched by a very receptive audience.
SAT 10 MARCH – HORDERN PAVILION, SYDNEY
MON 12 MARCH – RIVERSTAGE, BRISBANE
Incubus Set List
State Of The Art
Nice To Know You
Sick Sad Little World
Talk Shows On Mute (w/ INXS ‘Need You Tonight’)
Wish You Were Here (w/ Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’)