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Incubus proves worthy of devotion at Starlight Theatre

Two rock bands from California that enjoyed their commercial peaks about a dozen years ago were billed as co-headliners at Sunday’s concert at Starlight Theatre. By the end of the evening, it was clear that Incubus was a bigger attraction than Deftones.

Not only did Incubus perform last and play longer than Deftones, an overwhelming majority of the audience of more than 7,000 were partial to the former ensemble. Incubus proved worthy of their devotion.

Since the band’s inception in 1991, Incubus has resembled a genteel version of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Rather than featuring rapping, Incubus’ music is accentuated by the contributions of a turntablist.

A slight undercurrent of slinky funk ran through Incubus’ 90-minute set. The lithe groove was even maintained on furious material like “Megalomaniac” and on a few intriguing instrumental jams. Couples danced in the aisles to a pretty rendition of the 2000 hit “Drive” and to the conflicted 2008 chart-topper “Love Hurts.”

If Incubus emphasizes sweet sounds, Deftones revels in the sour. The band has been exploring the boundaries between indie-rock and heavy metal for more than 20 years. Sunlight and the disinterested socializing of Incubus fans conspired to diminish the effectiveness of Deftones’ 75-minute outing that ended before sunset.

A rendition of “Diamond Eyes” was uncharacteristically flabby. The low simmer of “Sex Tape” fizzled out. While the circumstances were less than ideal, front man Chino Moreno was partly to blame for his band’s disappointing performance. A few of his attempted screams resembled the strained wheezing of an asthmatic.

The brutal riffing of “You’ve Seen the Butcher” and a chaotic interpretation of “The Passenger” hinted at the band’s power. Moreno boasted that his band was playing “dangerous music.” Even so, Deftones was uncharacteristically tame on Sunday.

A pair of guitar-and-drum duos opened the concert.

Death From Above 1979, an ensemble that has received more critical accolades than its tour mates, probably didn’t make many new fans at Starlight. The Toronto duo offered no easy point of entry for the uninitiated during its bruising 35-minute assault. Its sinister beats and imposing barricades of guitar noise resembled an avant-garde dance remix of a Led Zeppelin album.

The young men in Los Angeles’ the Bots played with barely controlled fury. They had a right to be angry — they were allotted a mere ten minutes to showcase their scrappy brand of punk.