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Incubus / fiN - Manchester Apollo - 9.11.11

Incubus recently incited protests in the Philippines on the basis that the name can mean ‘a male demon’ or someone who ‘depresses or worries others’. Luckily for those who braved the chilly November evening to catch the band at the Apollo, the definition proved incorrect.

However, it was up to fiN to set the night rolling in the right direction and their solid brand of alternative rock did not disappoint the expectant crowd. But this Manchester audience have not come for fiN; when Incubus finally emerge from the darkness, the response is rapturous and shuddering. It has been a while since the band visited this northern outpost of support and the balcony shakes underfoot in frenzied recognition.

Indeed, this is an Incubus that feels more immediate and tight. The opening versions of ‘Megalomaniac’ and ‘Wish You Were Here’ are impressive and oppressive upon the senses. Whilst their signature turntablist whispers sneak through the mix, the sounds unite into a svelte obelisk, pummeling the stomach and resonating out through the mouth.

As squelching electronics and altered tones are trampled by square and pulsating drum work, the result is effective yet difficult to describe. I think the local vernacular is 'hench', which comes as something of a shock. For a band that always reminded me of the jazz odyssey bit from Spinal tap, tonight is a surprisingly muscular assault upon the ears. The telltale influences of jazz still break surface occasionally; stuttering solos and proggy breakdowns gasp for air before being enveloped once again by the powerful tumult.

Perhaps there is a link between Brandon’s espadrilles and his mastery at the helm of the bongos? Does his lack of shirt indicate cool? Either way, the band still shine on slower songs such as ‘Love Hurts’ and ‘In the Company of Wolves’, where the pace drops but intensity remains as warm organ rises alongside tightly clasped smart-phones, glowing as they consume the moment.

Ultimately, this is a band achieving a delicate balance; the messages are moving and offer instant connection with the army of devotees before them. What's surprising and refreshing is the ability to hammer these sentiments home with such brawn, precision and, well, volume. Perhaps the Philipino protestors got the ‘male demon’ bit right after all.

Words: Rob Spencer
Photos: Simon Lee

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