The last time I saw Incubus was right here in Santa Barbara, nearly two decades ago.
But it was almost like I had seen them yesterday on Thursday night at the Santa Barbara Bowl.
We’ve aged together — Brandon Boyd seemingly doesn’t age at all, but at least on paper he is older — and Incubus is like a fine wine, they’ve improved with time.
Two decades ago, it was easy to feed off their energy, not focused on refined musicianship, but on a good party atmosphere.
Fast forward to 2019, the band moves around a bit slower, but their storytelling is something that most bands should learn from.
The night opened up with a short film with the entire band reflecting on the 20th anniversary of the release of “Make Yourself,” arguably the band’s best album.
The sincerity and transparency in the film was heartfelt, talking about the struggle in finding their purpose and sound while touring the world. Most bands don’t make it through those trials and tribulations, but the film showed a band that focused on staying patient and allowing it to happen organically.
And it has.
The first 13 songs on Thursday came from “Make Yourself,” including the iconic “Stellar” and “Drive.”
While a band’s mega-hits are normally saved for an encore, it was refreshing to see the band trust that it could keep the audience interested through its 20-song performance.
Hearing “Drive” live is anthemic, a moment that sticks with you for days to come.
Boyd seems to feel the lyrics now more than ever, especially the sequence of “So whatever tomorrow brings; I’ll be there with open arms and open eyes; Whatever tomorrow brings; I’ll be there, I’ll be there.” The band has lived these lyrics in relation to its fans, being consistently thanked and loved by the band throughout the night.
Boyd and Mike Einziger have been with the band since 1991, while Chris Kilmore (1998) and Ben Kenney (2003) have also shown staying power.
While they might not be as goofy as they once were, they do sound more refined together after eight studio albums, the last of which was released in April 2017.
On this night, they were focused on “Make Yourself,” which peaked at No. 47 on the U.S. Billboard Album Charts — not even their most successful album, as three others (“Morning View,” “A Crow Left of the Murder” and “If Not Now, When?”) all getting to No. 2 and “Light Grenades” their only No. 1 album.
It showed a focus that most bands don’t have the discipline to pull off, understanding the album that gave them the success they now feel today.
Here’s to hoping it won’t take another couple of decades to see them again.