Monday, July 19, 2004

Incubus loses style points
by forgetting 'less is more'

Concert review

By C.E. Hanifin
Enquirer staff writer

According to an adage, a woman who wants to dazzle should remove at least one accessory before heading out. If Incubus had adopted a similar less-is-more philosophy for its song arrangements, the band's show Friday at U.S. Bank Arena would have been a lot more stunning.

The California group has scored several hits with its trippy guitars, bottom-heavy beats and whisper-to-a-scream vocals, all pinned together with just enough melody to implant the bleak lyrics into listeners' brains. The metal-derived urgency fueling Incubus' songs packs as much power onstage as it does on disc. Guitarist Michael Einziger clearly knew how to drive a song with relentless riffs, while DJ Kilmore's turntable work spiced the band's hard-rock sound with hip-hop flavor.

But Incubus' show was sapped of its potential strength by noodly intros, drawn-out interludes, final notes held for a beat or two (or seven) too long and Jose Pasillas II's unforgivably interminable drum solo. Like a fashionista piling on every bracelet in the box, Incubus overloaded each song with sonic baubles.

But the crowd of hardcore fans, most in their teens and early 20s, didn't care. They just wanted to hear "Pardon Me" and the band's other hits.

The audience started screaming the second the stage went dark and didn't let up until Incubus left it about two hours later. During "Here in My Room," an earnest ballad that provided a mellow counterpoint to the gloom-and-doom numbers, girls across the half-full arena grabbed onto their boyfriends. Not by the hand, though. You see, the guys were relishing the moment by plucking an air guitar or brandishing a lighter.

Love for the band's vocalist, Brandon Boyd, was in the air, too. Much has been made (mostly by male critics) of Boyd's physical charms, but he strutted like an aspiring rock god, not a preening cover boy. He did elicit one of the night's biggest cheers, though, when he removed his shirt to sing "Sick, Sad Little World," from the band's new album, A Crow Left of the Murder.

The squall of a distorted guitar marked Incubus' exit from the stage. The band let the crowd bellow for several minutes longer than the typical pre-encore pause before they took up their instruments again.

By contrast, opening act Sparta won over the audience with a taut set of songs spiked with passionate lyrics and grounded with a ferocious but unfrenzied drum assault. Although the Texas band has been slapped with the emo label, its surging, swirling guitars harken to an earlier era of teen angst - the '80s heyday of the Cure.


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