Most bands end up getting to Belfast at some stage or another. Maybe they’ve come on their first run and they haven’t returned since, ahem…Interpol, or maybe it’s fifteen years in the making like Billy Talent who graced the city last month. Then there’s the few we’re still waiting on; System of a Down, Tool, and sadly until recently Linkin Park, but proving it’s better late than never, Incubus have finally made it to Belfast despite touring the world for well over twenty years.
To be associated with nu-metal and still be active today is quite a feat. Shying from the heavier, cliched elements of that genre, Incubus easily transitioned into the emo, post-hardcore era that followed and accumulated fans from both sides of those angst driven years. With the likes of Wembley being their most suited venue of the early 2000’s, that status has never left them and the band continues to share the top billing on many major festivals across the US.
This could be a reason why the Ulster Hall was the venue of choice tonight. It’s probably one the smaller venues Incubus have played of late but it’s epic enough to home a band held with such high regard. In fact, it’s choosing is to accommodate the vast light show and screens that adorn the stage for this tour cycle.
Kicking things off with “Privilege”, the light show and visuals came into full effect, genuinely giving the show a big budget feel. Despite it being their penultimate show of a fourteen date European stretch, the band appears keen and into it. An oldie as an opener never fails and immediately gets the crowd moving and singing along. Nearing the end of the song, DJ Chris Kilmore samples Panjabi MC’s bhangra classic, “Mundian to Bach Ke”, with frontman Brandon Boyd taking to the djembe to offer his own beats over it. An unexpected addition but strangely fitting as almost seamlessly they close the track out in its original form.
Next up, “Anna Molly” from Light Grenades, it’s no anomaly that it’s a fan favourite among the majority of the venue. With all the lights and visuals, it’s easy to miss the understated Ben Kenney standing tall off to the left, bass across his stomach, sporting a big set of noise cancellers and bobbing his head in and out to the funky classic that’s now over twelve years old. Keeping in line with older material, the slow but suggesting tones of “Megalomaniac” started to ring through the speakers, culminating in a blast of strobing lights across the venue. At times screens were reminiscent of Windows Media Player visualisations, possibly cheap and dated but personally, I felt very fitting for a track first heard back in 2003.
As newer songs such as “State of the Art” was lost on some of the older fans, earlier material was universally welcomed and thankfully a set of nineteen songs allowed for a bit of everything throughout the night. A trio of classics in the form of “Circles”, “Echo” and “Pardon Me” was a real kick of nostalgia with that era-defining turntable scratch so prevalent on “Pardon Me” in particular. Moments like this where each member had their time to shine were peppered throughout the set and in Mike Einzinger’s case, his extended experimental solo in “Sick Sad Little World”.
A real trip into the archives came in the form of “Calgone” from 1997’s S.C.I.E.N.C.E, a pure nu-metal throwback where Jose Pasillas drumming really got to shine. Probably the heaviest moment of the night and proved why they shared stages with Korn and Limp Bizkit back before the turn of the century.
Out of a slow jam session came a cover of INXS’s “Need You Tonight”, a seemingly random occurrence but in fact a staple of the set for this tour in particular. How these moments are kept fresh and unpredictable to the audience is a testament to the synchronicity of the members on stage and it’s no coincidence the lineup has remained unchanged for over fifteen years.
Closing the set out with two classics from their now double platinum album Morning View spoke volumes about just what everyone was here for. “Are You In?” managed to strip itself back and slow down even further than the original, eventually working its way into a rendition of Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice”. To close, “Wish You Were Here”, to some a defining song of their teenage years, an emotional end to the set which also managed to incorporate a snippet of the Pink Floyd track of the same name.
As the lights briefly went down, we didn’t wait long for the inevitable encore. Returning to play “Here in my Room” and “Drive” both soft and sensitive choices delivered perfectly by Boyd and co, all excitement and frenzy was saved for “A Crow Left of the Murder” from the 2004 album of the same name. As the band all joined shoulder to shoulder to thank the Belfast crowd, the balcony took to their feet and the floor clapped in awe, it’s been a long time coming but it was well worth the wait.