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Concert Reviews:
Incubus fuses new and old at DTE show
 

By GARY GRAFF
for Journal Register Newspapers

» See more SOUND CHECK

INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- Incubus fans have had decidedly mixed reactions to the ethereal turn the group took on its latest album, "If Not Now, When?" But there was no ambivalence when the alt.rock quintet from California played Wednesday night (Aug. 24) at the DTE Energy Music Theatre.

Some of that -- OK, maybe a lot of it -- had to do with frontman Brandon Boyd and his sinewy charisma. Boyd knows how to play the pinup role without being cheesy, and his earnest, emotive vocal delivery comes off as nothing less than sincere. But there was an audible celebration from the crowd, males and females alike, when he finally (and inevitably) peeled his shirt off before "A Crow Left of the Murder" -- which even inspired a few of the fandudes, who truthfully should have left well enough alone, to follow suit.

Beyond Boyd, however, Incubus's hour-and-50-minute show delivered a deft weaving of the new with the old, as the group carefully chose and deployed the "If Not Now, When?" material for maximum impact during the 20-song set. Tracks such as the rocking "Adolescents" and the single "Promises, Promises," which come closest to Incubus past, were no brainers, but the title track and the epic "In the Company of Wolves" -- a showpiece for guitarist Mike Einziger and his semi-circle of effects pedals -- gained power in live performance. And "Defiance" worked even better when it was performed by Boyd and Einziger alone as part of a three-song acoustic segment.

And Incubus -- playing in front of a large HD screen that mixed live footage with produced video material -- smartly laced those new songs amidst plenty of favorites, kicking off with powerful renditions of "Pardon Me" and "Wish You Were Here" and lacing "Anna Molly," "circles," "When It Comes," "Vitamin," "Drive," "Nice to Know You" and "Megalomaniac" throughout the rest of the night. An extended "Sick Sad Little World," meanwhile, was an encore highlight, with opening act Tom Morello joining Einziger for a fiery duel between two determinedly inventive players.

Morello, in fact, got the evening off to potent start as the Nightwatchman, delivering 45 minutes of powerful, sharply worded protest songs such as "It Begins Tonight," "Black Spartacus Heart Attack Machine," "The Dogs of Tijuana," "Save the Hammer For the Man" and the title track from his forthcoming (Aug. 30) album "World Wide Rebel Songs," as well as an electric rendition of Bruce Springsteen's "The Ghost of Tom Joad." Einziger popped onto Morello's stage as well for a set-closing romp through Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" that included verses banned during the mid-1940s for being too subversive.

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