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INCUBUS with Ecca Vandal
12 March, 2018
“What year is it?” radio host Danny Clayton tweeted. The accompanying picture featured posters for upcoming gigs from late 90s/early 2000’s hellraisers Limp Bizkit, Good Charlotte and Incubus. It’s been decades since those groups first caught people’s attention, not becoming what a younger generation would call ‘old people music’. But at Brisbane’s open-air Riverstage, California’s Incubus showed they still have more energy than other nostalgia acts.
Opening was Melbourne performer Ecca Vandal, who released one of our favourite albums of 2017. I last saw her annihilate a smaller space, where she kicked and screamed on and off stage. Vandal toned down her energy, keeping to running amok on stage. Despite her restraint, her performance still confounded. Her rapid-fire flow burst over the pummelling beats of White Flag, and stunned with her piercing scream across the racing Price of Living, whipping her black and blonde mane throughout.
It’s been a long wait for Incubus to return to our shores. They last visited for the 2015 Soundwave Festival, and even longer since they released new material, breaking their seven-year hiatus with their recent album 8. Anticipation ran high, with eager screams ringing throughout Riverstage when the lights dimmed.
After a few quick strums from guitarist Michael Einziger, Brandon Boyd’s distinctive croon broke in for opener Glitterbomb. Boyd’s vocals have suffered in recent years, as heard last year on a painful live performance on US talk show Conan. However, naysayers (i.e. me) were silenced when he bellowed “I’m alone”, the mic in his hand pushed away from the force.
Boyd, Einziger, and drummer Jose Pasillas have performed together for nearly 30 years, and several of those with DJ Chris Kilmore and bassist Ben Kenney. Over that time, Incubus has become one of the tightest live bands around, which was on full display when they roared through the breakneck Nimble Bastard. But tightness didn’t mean stiffness, and on Vitamin Boyd took to his congas for a drum-off with Pasillas, both smiling throughout. The band also snuck in a treat for Australian fans when the poignant Talk Shows on Mute morphed into a very funky Need You Tonight by INXS, with Boyd doing his best Michael Hutchence impression.
Behind the band was a video screen, which went blank during Megalomaniac. It was for the best there were no distractions as the explosion of energy from the stage was a sight to see. Boyd threw his skinny frame across the stage and howled the chorus over Einziger’s heavy riffing, inciting the moshpit to become a sea of fist-pumps. It was almost too much for Kilmore, who had to push himself away from his decks to thrash his enormous dreads around.
After closing with Wish You Were Here—featuring an on-the-nose snippet of the Pink Floyd song of the same name—the band returned for an encore. Kilmore began with a lonely keyboard, the song only becoming familiar when Boyd crooned Drive, receiving a rapturous applause. “Sing it with me,” he called to fans, although they didn’t need prompting to scream the lyrics back at him. His voice was vibrant throughout the night, from yearning on Talk Shows on Mute to high on Anna Molly, but here he was at his finest.
Over the noisy finish, Boyd serenaded Kenney for his birthday. Earlier, Boyd asked what he wanted for his birthday, to which Kenney didn’t respond. “I think he’s getting it,” Boyd chuckled. Judging by the screams throughout the night, fans also received a gift: witnessing Incubus live and in top form.