Incubus returns with overcooked sonic perfection
Concertgoers prepared for rain Friday night at the Waikiki Shell only to have their umbrellas confiscated at the gate, but skies were clear during the Incubus show.
Silversun Pickups took the stage at 6:30 p.m. for the early-to-bed venue, launching a set of energetic, garage-y rave-ups marked by singer-guitarist Brian Aubert's unusual, seemingly helium-filled vocals.
Aubert made clear his Kailua roots, though he was less chatty during this amplified set than during an intimate concert Wednesday in the Road Runner Music Hall.
So comfortable with being "home," Aubert leaped off the front of the stage after the set and made his way toward friends on the lawn, shaking hands en route, causing a girl to coo, "I have his sweat on my hand!"
Throughout, the audience politely cheered with Aubert's every scream, but it took Incubus to bring the crowd to its feet.
I tried to guess which song they'd open with, and settled on the rousing "Megalomaniac." But Incubus didn't need to give the crowd a wake-up call, opening with the moody, ambient "Quicksand" and "A Kiss to Send Us Off," the first two songs off the band's "Light Grenades" disc. Songs from "Morning View" and "A Crow Left of the Murder" got equal time throughout the evening.
By the third song, "Nice to Know You," the concert had turned into a sing-along with the audience threatening to drown out Brandon Boyd's vocals, even as he seemed to wring the notes with every ounce of his taut, lean body, which -- to the joy of girls in front with cell-phone cameras -- shed layers of clothing until he ended up shirtless.
THE BAND'S fast-slow pacing led from the lush "Wish You Were Here" to the aggressive "Anna Molly" without much stopping. It was only after the eighth song that, just before launching into "Drive," Boyd addressed the crowd at length, reminding us that it's been 11 years since they last played Honolulu. Way too long.
Unfortunately, any rough edges from their punk-and-funk roots have been polished smooth, but the result on this night was a powerful sonic juggernaut with every pause and start executed with crisp precision, particularly noticeable with the tight rhythms pumped out by drummer Jose Pasillas and bass player Ben Kenny.
It's unusual to see a five-piece rock band that isn't guitar-driven, but Incubus seems to be more of a democracy, with each member -- including deejay Chris Kilmore and guitarist Michael Einziger -- sharing equal stature, with no room for gratuitous solos.
Einziger, whose brilliant studio work often sounds as if he is communicating with space aliens, or 1970s progressive rockers, tended to disappear in the live mix. The fury of the rhythm section and Kilmore's Mellotron and turntables bury some of the textural qualities of his playing, which stood out in quieter moments. It would have been more exciting to hear more music coming out of human beings rather than Kilmore's machines.
Boyd took up percussion at moments, as well as the guitar in performing a feedback-driven "Pistola," which bled into "Talk Show on Mute," when he picked up one, then two spotlights, shining them on Kenny and Einziger before ending the song with a single spot over his head, the reverse of the old flashlight-under-the-chin trick. The set closed at its crescendo with the crowd in a frenzy over "Megalomaniac."
The band returned for an encore of "Stellar" before ending as they started, on a subdued note with Einziger on lute for the dreamlike "Aqueous Transmissions."
The crowd fled quickly when loudspeakers blared Journey's "Don't Stop Believing," which seemed trivial to what we had just heard. Talk about wrecking a mood.