Incubus was one of the bands that came about during the nu metal era back in the late 90s, although admittedly I kinda listened to them just about the time of the turn-of-the-century Make Yourself record. Incubus was on a heavier rotation on my playlist by the time of Morning View, and it was then that I began to jam their songs (other than flippin’ Drive) with the likes of suck and Maniacs. I had a chance to see them on their Morning View tour in 2002 but due to illness in the family, my first Incubus gig came about an album later in 2004. I then saw them again after the release of Light Grenades in 2007. Even got to meet the band and chatted to Mike Einziger about his carpal tunnel syndrome surgery. And that was 12 years ago, following which they mellowed down so much more, released that mellow record and then went into hiatus.

When they announced the current tour, I didn’t realise that they released an album called 8 last year. I ordered a Japan print of the record which had an acoustic version of Nimble Bastard, but the CD didn’t arrive until after I attended the gig in Manchester. The tix sold out pretty fast and I can’t remember when I bought mine but I chose to get a seated one as I have been doing of late. There were a few interesting observations when I got to my pretty decent aisle seat (unobstructed view at the very least) but I’ll mention them later.

Incubus got onstage at about 9-ish. The first I was wondering was what kind of material would they be playing 20 years on. I also wondered if the set was gonna be 8-heavy especially when my CD was still in transit. To tell you the truth, I was partially resigned to just have a good time and just listen when they play the new stuff. Nope – they kicked the set off with Privilege. Bearing in mind Einziger has left the Ibanez 7-strings/humbucking PRS’ behind for years now, but the band still sounded big. Tele or not, Einziger’s backline was two Mesa Trem-o-Verb combos with two additional 2x12s, one of which had the Harvard motto VERITAS on it. And to instil some freshness to this, Kilmore added a pleasantly surprising interlude of Panjabi MC’s Mundian To Bach Ke to the mix of this song!

Anna Molly from Light Grenades came on next. I have to say, this set list is literally a corridor to the past for me. Anna Molly was the last Incubus song I jammed with Wong, a friend from the days of the first GIG@Sheffield, down in a basement in a student dig on Filey Street. Well, the time corridor didn’t disappoint as Megalomaniac from ACLOTM was up next. 2005’s Manchester gig with Budin on additional vocals came to mind. A Kiss to Send Us Off came on next, which was another hard rocking LG song. Not missing a beat yet.

The first song they played from the current record was State of the Art, a chilled out groovy number with Einziger arpeggiating in the background. Circles which came next will always have a place in my heart – one of the numbers I learnt on the bass when I started jamming Incubus tunes with Wong and Menon in Broomhall. We actually played this as a soundcheck at the aforesaid Manchester gig and I remembered Budin running from across the floor of Academy 2 and joined us on vocals. Back to the gig, I have to say it was weird rocking out to your fav songs while seated as no one really stood where I was at. I actually had mistaken Echo for Aqueous Transmission (the latter should have Einziger playing the pipa). And fan favs were defo on a roll now with Pardon Me and the guitar/bass playing in synchrony number that is Sick Sad Little World. I have the tab to that but too many notes, yo.

It was interesting to see them segue into INXS’ Need You Tonight after Love Hurts. The next bit is an Incubus gig staple – Calgone and Vitamin where Boyd would be jamming on his djembe. These tunes will really bring you back to the 90s. Now comes the bit on my observations of the audience in the seated area. I have no idea what the punters were like in the floor area, but as expected of a band of this vintage, the once yoof fans have now grown up, some with kids in tow. Admirable, I have to say. Also, as the years went by, Incubus had become more mainstream with some hits like Are You In? being quite popular. So, I had the impression that the lack of enthusiasm of the audience in the seated may stem from a number of factors – people wanting a night out watching a band which they know a couple of songs that they heard on MTV, or fans who like the band in certain phases of their career (unfortunately I think I fall in this category, but I would like to see myself as a fan of the band at their best phase *koff*), among others. During the gig, people were getting out and in of their seats, going to the bar etc. I was like, hey… don’t you wanna see them play this fantastic song?!. Wish You Were Here – another fav of mine ended the main set and they segued the Pink Floyd’s version at the end of it. This wasn’t the only improv on WYWH – Einziger was kinda doing an alternative version of the otherwise well-known intro riff to it.

Incubus returned to the stage for their encore of Here In My Room, the eponymous Drive and Crow. I thought they still sounded good despite all these years. Ben Kenney did seem a bit subdued tonight but if you ask me, I prefer him to Dirk Lance, the band’s erstwhile bassist, anytime. Jose seemed to have grown his hair right long, and to pre-empt a particular question I get asked every time I attend an Incubus gig – yeah, Boyd took his top off midway in the band’s main set. Happy?

O2 Apollo, Manchester 8.9.2018 set list: Privilege / Anna Molly / Megalomaniac / A Kiss to Send Us Off / State of the Art / Circles / Echo / Pardon Me / Sick Sad Little World / No Fun / Love Hurts / Need You Tonight (INXS cover) / Calgone / Vitamin / Are You In? / Wish You Were Here // Here in My Room / Drive / A Crow Left of the Murder