Incubus at the Riviera


November 5, 2001


Performing Saturday on the first of two sold-out nights at the Riv, Incubus distinguished itself not only as the exception in a genre otherwise marked by cookie-cutter conformity and rampant boneheadedness, but as a great rock band, period.

Celebrating the release of their fourth album, "Morning View," the Southern Californians played the theater to build excitement at a point when they could clearly sell out an arena. And unlike fellow nu-metal/rap-rock bands such as Limp Bizkit, Staind, Linkin Park or Chicago's Disturbed, they actually deserve to have hit that pinnacle.

The group shares many sonic similarities with its peers, but in every case, it betters the competition. Frizzy-haired guitarist Mike Einziger deftly swings from fluid funk lines to crunching power chords; DJ Kilmore adds inventive backdrops ranging from orchestral strings to burbling analog synthesizers, and the rhythm section actually knows how to groove instead of sounding like a badly programmed drum machine.

Then there is sex-symbol frontman Brandon Boyd, the rare singer in this movement who does not sound like a down-tuned imitation of Eddie Vedder. At the Riv, Boyd's warm stage persona, poetic lyrics and occasional solos on an African djembe and Australian didgeridoo pegged the primary difference from the rest of the Class of 2001.

Like 311, the members of Incubus are suburban hippies instead of spoiled, angst-ridden jocks. In another era, they might have been Phish. Instead, they avoided undue jamming and concentrated on the driving rhythms and anthemic melodies of tunes such as "Pardon Me" and "Wish You Were Here" during a generous set that was already 85 minutes long before the encores.

The band is not immune to some of the problems plaguing the current "alternative" scene: The show proudly boasted a corporate sponsor that was hardly needed, and it bogged down during a mercifully brief acoustic set.

(The curse of the power ballad--argh!) But these are quibbles with an otherwise potent evening.

Continuing to ride a wave of big-bucks major-label hype that brought them back to town only weeks after opening for Weezer, New Wave revivalists the Start opened with an annoying set of rewritten Missing Persons tunes, winning nothing but the animosity of Incubus fans who couldn't drive them from the stage quickly enough.

Jim DeRogatis, pop music critic