Incubus glows in the dark at Avila Beach

October 15, 2011


It’s rare when everything comes together perfectly, but the world is certainly a beautiful place when it does.

In the live music realm, such perfection is largely unattainable however alt-rock veterans Incubus came pretty close at their recent show in Avila Beach.

What’s the recipe? A balmy, almost surreal night in one of the most wondrous settings on the central coast, a young and vibrant pre-weekend crowd, a cozy but comfortable venue, a spot-on sound and light mix and a 5-piece band that plays and meshes together as well as any in rock music today.

As the full moon rose into the clear sky on October 13, the planets, at least musical ones, were definitely in alignment.

Led by flamboyant but non-talkative frontman Brandon Boyd, the Calabasas-based quintet led concertgoers on a 105-minute sonic journey that seemed to leave everyone satisfied but still wanting more. It’s a good sign when the cheers and howls get louder as the concert nears the end. Hard to believe these guys have been doing this for 20 years.

Using an old-school mic from the 1930s radio days, Boyd and his fellow alt-rockers blew through new material and classic tunes from their seven albums.  While not a rock radio staple like other acts, fans had no trouble cheering familiar riffs and singing along to their meaningful lyrics.

I hate to categorize Incubus as such because they have such a distinct sound which blends funk, metal and grunge elements. Think of Pearl Jam meets Linkin Park, with a spritz of Coldplay. But even that comparison doesn’t really do them justice.

I often judge a show by how I respond to new tracks that I’ve never heard. Renditions of “Adolescents” and “Promises, Promises” from their recent release “If Not Now, When” were infectious and demonstrated the band’s strong songwriting chops. While their albums sales peaked a few years back (what band’s releases haven’t?), Incubus seems more powerful and musically mature now.  Older, familiar numbers like “Drive,” “Dig” and “Wish You Were Here” felt current and even the acoustic version of “Love Hurts” with Boyd crooning and guitarist Mike Einziger strumming resonated with the receptive audience.

By the time they closed their pre-encore set with the rousing “Megalomaniac” as their controversial music video glared behind the stage, fans were dancing, screaming and jumping for joy.  This was clearly a band in complete control of their craft, firing on all musical cylinders.

In the end, Incubus showed that when a band hits the stage live, none of our stereotypes, perceptions and expectations matter anymore. It’s all about the aural vibe connecting performers with listeners. For Incubus and their fans on that soft and warm school night in Avila, it was like a musical umbilical cord that nobody wanted to detach.

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Damn! I missed another one! The price of having a wife and kids… I really need to check that EVENTS calendar more often. I would love to have been there to experience it, that is a great venue when the weather cooperates (as it often does).

I also think, with the massive influx of “yesterday’s” musicians touring heavily, coupled with studios’ reports that a large chunk of their sales are catalog sales, I hope live music becomes the normal way for these bands to earn their pay, as they only get better (or fall apart) after touring and playing together so much. The listening public and fans quite often are the winners.

Thanks for the write-up!