September 27, 2002

Meet Them in Outer Space

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What do you get when you take one of today’s biggest mainstream rock bands and one of the Seventeen crowd’s biggest sex symbols and put them into the same building with thousands of fans? One big, hot, sweaty, violent mess in Barton Hall. That describes the scene last Sunday night perfectly, when Incubus decended upon Ithaca.

At the beginning of the night, 30 Seconds to Mars took the stage and immediately the cries of teenage girls could be heard over clamorous feedback. The band, headed by actor Jared Leto of My So-Called Life fame, played a forty-five minute set of hard rock tracks from their self-titled critically acclaimed debut album. The audience, however, seemed much more intent on convincing Leto to remove his clothing (which he didn’t do) than paying any attention at all to the music. In between two songs, Leto jumped onto an amplifier and asked if there were “any naughty girls” in Barton Hall — and about five hundred female voices responded with a hormone-fueled “yes.” In keeping with his Hollywood image, Leto employed his own personal photographer and would whisper his next move so he could be photographed as beautifully as possible. As the band exited the stage, the crowd immediately became silent while Incubus’ roadies set up.

Opening with the song “Circles” off 2001’s Morning View, Incubus roused the audience once again. Almost instantly, bodies were being passed over fans as they pushed to get closer to the band (most of them just wanted to get a better view of singer Brandon Boyd’s abs). For the next pair of songs, “Nice to Know You” and “Stellar,” the pit seemed dangerously out of control and required members of the Cornell Concert Commission’s security staff to intervene by pulling people to safety. During the opening lines of “Stellar” the backdrop of the stage turned into an almost planetarium-like scene as Boyd sang the lyrics “meet me in outer space.”

Throughout the evening, the band used a giant screen to display graphic accompaniment to their music. While performing “Make Yourself,” images of DNA and walking human skeletons smoking cigarettes appeared behind the band. Photographs of elaborate scenery (desert scenes, underwater, and the sun rising) provided a background to some of the band’s more mellow songs.

In the early part of the show, Incubus played a barrage of their hits, including “Wish You Were Here,” and their latest single, “Warning,” along with two lesser-known cuts “Glass” and “Clean,” from the albums S.C.I.E.N.C.E. and Make Yourself, respectively.

Midway through the evening, the stage was transformed into a living room setting, with two green couches and a lamp. Boyd and guitarist Mike Einziger played an acoustic set of “Mexico” and “11 am,” accompanied by string samples from DJ Kilmore. The fans calmed down for awhile, and stopped moshing long enough to listen to the quieter songs.

Boyd repeatedly took time to joke with the audience saying that he thought there should be a “Nude College Fest 2002,” at Cornell that night, and then turned to his guitarist and said, laughing, “but just you and me, after the show.” Boyd then decided to question students’ reasons for deciding to go away to college. “How many of you here actually go to school? And how many of you here are just using your parents’ money to do drugs?” the singer asked. This drew uproarious applause from those who are here for the latter option. Boyd, who seemed to be the object of more sexual fantasies than Jared Leto, pandered to the crowd by stating “it’s getting hot in here,” mocking the popular rap song by Nelly. This prompted chants of “take it off, Brandon, take it off.” Apparently the audience was still frustrated that Leto had remained fully clothed throughout his entire performance. Boyd, however, was eager to appease his female fans by allowing a large fan in front of the stage to blow back his open white shirt, which he then removed.

After ending the set with two of their biggest hits “Drive,” and “Pardon Me,” the band retreated backstage for more than five minutes before returning to play a long introduction to “The Warmth,” with heavily Indian influenced guitars while Boyd moaned. Incubus took the very unusual move of playing their obscure meditative songs during the encore since they had already played all their hits during the main part of the show. For the closing, “Aqueous Transmission,” Einziger picked up a sitar while Boyd climbed in front of the screen until he appeared as nothing but a dark shadow hidden by the changing backgrounds.

The band combined visual effects, a relaxed stage presence, and a strong perfomance for a memorable show. With a diverse set that drew from their entire career, Incubus was able to satisfy both hardcore fans as well as teenyboppers only there for a glimpse of Brandon Boyd and/or Jared Leto.

Archived article by Ed Howard