Syracuse, NY – You might be surprised at an Incubus concert by how many of their songs you still know.
The group achieved major commercial and critical success in the late 1990s and early 2000s with the hit single “Drive”, a soft acoustic track buried on the 1999 album “Make Yourself”. But even the casual fan spirit finds themselves singing along to more numbers from their catalog of pop-rock hits than they ever imagined.
The band showcased their decades-old hits and deeper tracks during a 100-minute set on a blustery and warm Tuesday night at St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater in Syracuse.
Incubus took the stage to the opening riff of “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits. You may know the song best by its iconic chorus, “I want my… I want my MTV.”
The song was a fitting preface for a band that honed its sound during the height of MTV’s influence. With contemporaries like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Alice in Chains and Hoobastank, the band found a regular airwave presence for several years around the turn of the century. They helped define a sound that bridged the gap between mid-’90s grunge and the more traditional pop-rock that would follow in the beginning (think Maroon 5 and The Black Eyed Peas).
They did so behind the voice and on-screen appeal of frontman Brandon Boyd, the long-haired singer who strutted onto the stage on Tuesday wearing, at first, a baggy button-up shirt, which he eventually ditched for a slim white tank top.
Boyd showed tremendous vocal range and wielded control as he showcased the band’s grunge-lite sound on Tuesday. His band kicked off with “Nice to Know You” and followed with familiar tunes like “Wish You Were Here” and “Megalomaniac,” the tough, anti-narcissistic anthem.
As the set neared its end, the band played “Pardon Me,” another closet hit, and covered Lenny Kravitz’s funky 1991 track “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over.”
The band returned for an encore of “Drive,” easily their most popular song, but a sweet ending to a show filled with guitar and drums.
Sublime with Rome opened the evening. The band features remnants of the iconic ska-reggae band once fronted by the late Bradley Newell but now fronted by Rome Ramirez. They even brought a dog on stage to play fetch during their ’90s skate-rock set.
They cycled through popular favorites like “April 29, 1992” and “What I Got,” ending with a rendition of “Santeria,” featuring a loud singing crowd.
Ahead of Rome’s Sublime, the Aquadolls played a brief but raucous series of stripped-back rock tunes as crowds rolled in from the parking lots.
For its part, the crowd was spirited, albeit small, by amphitheater standards. The half-full shed sang repeatedly as Boyd skipped backing vocals and instead pointed his microphone at the audience.
“You’re delicious,” Boyd told the crowd shortly before ending the set with “Warning,” a song whose lyrics inspire listeners to seize every day.
“She woke up in the morning. She knew her life had passed her by. And she shouted a warning, a warning, “Never let life slip away from you. “