In 2000, Deftones embarked on a U.S. tour in promotion of White Pony, bringing along Incubus as support. The latter had just reached platinum status with their third studio album Make Yourself, which featured the three charting singles “Stellar,” “Pardon Me” and “Drive.” White Pony, on the other hand, would go on to become Deftones’ highest-selling album to date. A decade and a half later, Deftones and Incubus are touring together again, this time as co-headliners.
The 18-show U.S. summer tour kicked off last night (July 22) at Clarkston’s DTE Energy Music Theatre, just north of Detroit, Michigan, with opening performances by The Bots and Death From Above 1979. However, Deftones were awkwardly slotted before Incubus, which proved to be an uncomfortable shift in atmosphere. While Deftones delivered an electric performance from start to finish, Incubus simply coasted along, flattening the charged environment.
Deftones can be hit or miss in live settings, often due to a strain in vocalist Chino Moreno’s voice after extensive screaming (especially on longer tours), but the Clarkston crowd experienced a fresh and vigorous band with no signs of wear or tear. Amidst white lighting in the shape of a V, Deftones’ members graced the stage one by one. Without taking a moment to ready themselves and with no noticeable hints of hesitation, the band immediately dove into a powerful rendition of “Needles and Pins” followed by “Bloody Cape,” both off of their self-titled album. Deftones were evidently well-rehearsed and well-prepared, but what really pulled the performance together was a natural connection between the members, a characteristic that came effortlessly without practice or force.
The majority of the set saw Moreno thrashing around the stage, whipping and spinning his mic cord in circles as Deftones dipped into the heavier side of their catalogue with guitarist Stephen Carpenter shredding riff after riff. It wasn’t always extreme, through — the self-titled’s evocative “Minerva” was used as a cushion before playing three songs in a row from Diamond Eyes: the title track, “Rocket Skates” and “You’ve Seen the Butcher,” in which Moreno spit water in the air to the beat of the intro.
With the first night of a tour comes inevitable trial-and-error moments. Since Deftones played early in the night, their lighting seemed better geared toward nighttime — for songs like “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)” and “My Own Summer (Shove It)” from Around the Fur, a mix of colored lights were all but washed out by a sun that had yet to set. “Tempest” and “Swerve City” (both from Deftones’ latest studio album Koi No Yokan) flowed effortlessly, but when the band briefly slowed things down with “Sextape” and “Beware,” Moreno’s guitar malfunctioned during the latter. He joked, “No wonder why we haven’t played that song in nine years!” and brushed it off by talking about the band’s history in Detroit. “We’ve been coming to Detroit for over 20 years now,” he said, remembering a show at St. Andrew’s Hall. Undeterred by the mishap, however, Deftones ran though “When Girls Telephone Boys,” “Change (In the House of Flies)” and “Digital Bath” without so much as a pause, closing with an emotional “Headup” dedicated to late bassist Chi Cheng and a fiery “Engine No. 9.”
Considering Deftones have a much harder sound than Incubus, the energy level dipped for the second headlining band, rather than continuing to rise. To make the night stronger, the co-headlining sets should have been reversed — their order didn’t work in favor of Incubus’ lighter, less active set. The band opened with a slow-moving intro to “Wish You Were Here,” and although the number was backed by a breathtaking lightshow, it didn’t enhance Incubus’ lackluster performance. Vocalist Brandon Boyd seemed to be going through the motions, showing perks of energy at times — particularly during “Anna Molly” and “Pardon Me” — but each moment lasted briefly, sending Boyd back into a tiresome routine that left him sounding drained. Incubus had a chance to soar with the high-paced “Vitamin,” but instead, Boyd’s vocals were muffled and drowned out by Mike Einziger’s guitar.
A few numbers saw the band truly engaged, like sing-along staples “Nice to Know You” and “Megalomaniac” — plus “Make Out Party” from the new EP Trust Fall (Side A) — but it was hard for Incubus to match Deftones’ remarkable performance. There was almost a sense of nervousness and apprehension that stopped Incubus from giving this performance their all. Even the encore — which included two of their bigger hits, “Dig” and “Drive” — wasn’t a memorable sendoff to a much-anticipated night.