Saturday, August 15, 2009

Incubus - August 7, 2009

A Friday night in New Jersey was the setting for my first experience with Incubus as a live headliner. The PNC Bank Arts Center, home to many of my concert experiences, was the place where Incubus would perform. I had seen the band live once (at the same venue), when they were part of Lollapalooza back in 2003. I’ve always enjoyed Incubus, but I wouldn’t consider myself a die-hard fan, which is probably why I had never seen them as a headliner before.

My friend Dawn Marie and I decided it would be nice to see the band in concert, and once the tickets were available for half price there was no question, we were going to see Incubus. We got to the Arts Center with plenty of time available for tailgating. There was food, booze, chairs, and exceptional weather. It was a picture perfect, gorgeous Friday afternoon/early evening in New Jersey, the epitome of summer. It was everything that you could want for an outdoor concert. The sun was shining, the temperature was a pleasant 80 degrees, and there was almost no humidity in the air.

We parked the car, pulled out the tailgate chairs, popped open a mojito and sat down to enjoy the ambiance and atmosphere before the concert began. Immediately upon observing my surroundings, it was painfully obvious that this was a young crowd. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but what it meant was that Dawn Marie and I were some of the oldest people in attendance. She was in denial about this, but looking around the parking lot and seeing who walked by, it was all too clear. We were the old folks. The same people that I used to look at many years ago and say, “Wow, it’s cool that these old people still like to attend concerts.” Now I was one of those old people.

The Duke Spirit was the opening act. I had never heard of them before and no internet research was executed beforehand, so I had no idea what their sound was like. They took the stage promptly at 8:00 PM and launched into their opening song. Their lead singer was a female blonde bombshell and we learned that the band was from England, supporting Incubus on their US tour.

The Duke Spirit gave a great performance. A lot of times, opening acts that most people never heard of are not that good and I usually find myself wandering toward the beer tent or the bathroom. Not the case with The Duke Spirit. I actually wanted to stay to see their entire set. Although I didn’t know any of their songs, they put on quite the show.

When it was time for Incubus to appear, the first thing I noticed was the slow walk. The band didn’t sprint up to the stage and rip into their first song (like AC/DC or Papa Roach). They didn’t burst onto the scene and bask in the rousing applause (ala Bruce Springsteen). What they did was to cautiously make their way to their respective stage spots, and then begin their job of entertaining the crowd. It was an interesting, different way for a concert to begin.

The band kicked off the night with Pardon Me, an amazing track from their major label debut, Make Yourself. The first notes of the record scratch intro hit the airwaves and the large Arts Center crowd roared their approval. Obviously, Pardon Me was a fan favorite and a good choice of an opener.

One of the interesting things about Incubus is how they are not flashy at all. No bombs or explosions, no huge video screens (there was a modest sized one behind the drummer), no flames rising from the stage, even their lighting was basic. Incubus is a no frills band in a good way.

The strongest portion of the concert was exactly what it should have been, the music. Incubus has a deep, rich, musically history with plenty of hits to choose from. Since they were supporting Monuments and Melodies, a greatest hits collection, the setlist was going to be big on hits with no filler.

Ticket prices must have factored into the attendance. As I mentioned, Dawn Marie and I bought tickets once they were a half price special. Before that, we were considering lawn seats, but weren’t committed. When the concert started, it was clearly noticeable that most of the 400 section had not sold. The first four rows of the center section were filled and that was about it. The rest of the 400s remained empty. That’s a shame, but it’s also a message to the band. Ticket prices were too high.

My moment of the night came with the opening notes of Oil and Water. This is my favorite Incubus song ever recorded and when the introduction guitar riff hit, chills erupted all over my body. The coolness in the air and the darkness in the amphitheater only added to the ambiance of this song. It was one of the greatest moments in my concert attending history. Needless to say, I sang every word to that song at the top of my lungs, oblivious to everything except the strength of the music combined with the lyrics.

When it came time for the encore, I was shocked at how loud the roar was. I’ve heard some loud roars for bands before (most notably Dave Matthews and Kiss), but I can’t recall hearing a roar so loud that it literally hurt my eardrums. The screams vibrated off the ceiling and almost made the theater shake. I’m sure Incubus appreciated the love and support of the fans.

For the final song of the night, Incubus decided to close out with a cover of Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy. I’m not a fan of closing with someone else’s song. I personally think they should have played it at a different portion of the night, but I give them credit. Incubus performed an excellent version of this classic tune. The crowd ate it up and everyone was dancing, screaming, and singing along. It was a strong way to close out the night, even if it wasn’t their song.

Incubus came, they conquered, and they sent us home happy. If they came back around, I would definitely see them again. It was a great August night and a memorable evening spent enjoying a great concert and remembering when I was the youngster at the show. Ah, the glory days!

Pardon Me
Nice To Know You
Anna Molly
Love Hurts
Just A Phase
Talk Show On Mute
Oil & Water
A Kiss To Send Us Off
Wish You Were Here
The Warmth
Sick Sad Little World
Let’s Go Crazy

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