REVIEW WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
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It was a slam-dunk no-brainer.
To see the intense, brooding, sonically adventurous alternative rock band Incubus July 31 at the Sands Event Center in Bethlehem, or Aug. 8 at the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden, N.J.?
No contest! The Sands is a shorter and easier drive, parking’s free, no tolls, and only one opening act. If you have tickets to Saturday’s 6:15 p.m. show at SBC, you’re going to have to muddle through sets by the loud-volume-but-little-else Deftones and the weird Death From Above 1979 (whose single “Trainwreck 1979” begs the question: “What’s with the 1979 fixation?”).
However, there were some unexpected cons with Bethlehem. It was an uncomfortable, standing, general admission affair, and for being only a few years old, the theater floor is grossly sticky. And because it’s an indoor venue, there’s that miniscule chance the fire alarm will go off. I’ll tell you more about that in a bit.
Keeping with the pros and cons theme, pro No. 1: Incubus’ visuals and musicianship were first-rate. The light show, lasers and kinetic, imaginative, often psychedelic images on the stage backdrop screen were memorable. In particular, the showmanship of DJ/keyboardist Chris Kilmore and, of course, frontman Brandon Boyd was noteworthy. Ben Kenney’s basswork on “Are You In?” surprisingly cut through the mix and sounded even better than the recording. Boyd’s auxiliary percussion on various drums placed around the stage was a treat.
Con No. 1: Strange as this sounds, Incubus was almost too technically perfect in their execution. The most interesting parts of the show were impromptu. A large balloon batted about the crowd landed on stage and was carried off by a stagehand, only to be retrieved by Boyd and thrown back into the crowd. “Pretend it’s the ‘90s,” he quipped. Later, three songs into their encore, the band decided the show must go on even when the sound cut out, the house lights came up and the fire alarm sounded. Whether it was because somebody accidentally opened an emergency exit door, overactive stage smoke machines, or something else is anybody’s guess. Not many moved toward the exits, giving one terrifying pause to wonder: What if this had been a true emergency?
Pro No. 2: The Bots, who will also be on the bill at SBC Aug. 8, were a well-chosen opening act. It was fascinating to watch the brotherly duo weave electronically-tinged garage rock soundscapes. Singer-guitarist Mikaiah Lei’s stage presence was magnetic, with his black Pharrell hat and Prince/Jimi Hendrix/Buddy Guy theatrics.
Con No. 2: Although they hit most of their popular tunes, the signature song “Stellar” was conspicuously absent. “Warning” from the standout 2001 album “Morning View” also would have made this concert more satisfying. Instead, they favored this year’s “Trust Fall, Side A” EP, which radio has not warmed up to (not that the ecstatic audience cared much at all about that).
Pro No. 3: The polyrhythmic percussion intro to the opener “Wish You Were Here.”
Con No. 3: Feeling conspicuously old. (Read this sentence in a geezer voice) Hey you kids, put your phones down — you’re blocking my view! Especially you with the iPad!
Pro No. 4: The snippet of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” they dropped into “Megalomaniac.”
Con No. 4: This show was better suited for the PPL Center in Allentown, or even Lehigh University’s Stabler Arena.