Inhaler and Apre, Dingwalls

IMG_1973Wednesday October 9, 2019

Tonight’s concert with Inhaler and Apre at Dingwalls is sold out and there’s a long queue waiting to get in. As I get in to the venue the first few rows in front of the stage are already occupied by expectant fans, but there’s plenty of room on the side on a raised platform, which is perfect for short people like me.

IMG_1975Apre, Dingwalls

I saw Inhaler earlier this year supporting another band (Touts) at the now closed down Borderline, and they were decent. Tonight they’re headlining. The support band, Apre is really good, a bit Happy Mondays, a bit Foals, funky guitars and electronic vibes and pedal effects. Stand out track for me is the joyous Everybody Loves You. Definitely a band to explore further.

And then its time for headlining band, Inhaler. Singer Eli Hewson is more extroverted at this concert than the last one. I gather they’ve toured a lot since I saw them in the spring and he’s gained confidence which enhances his stage presence. And this time his microphone is turned up louder, which it wasn’t at the Borderline where his singing almost disappeared among the instruments. This time his voice is loud and clear and it’s evident what an expressive singer he is.

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A song I didn’t know at the last concert but remember standing out, Ice Cream Sundae, has since grown into their current single. Though catchy I’m not sure I like it as much as first time I heard it. Luckily there are ten other songs, most of which turn out to be very good. I’m only really familiar with four songs of the 11-song set, opener It Won’t always Be Like This, closing song My Honest Face, current single Ice Cream Sundae and B-side Oklahoma.

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At one point Hewson and guitarist Josh Jenkinson are alone on stage performing an acoustic version of Oklahoma. It’s bit faster than on the record, but still slow enough to show off another side of Inhaler which I think suits them and I’m hoping for more quiet, atmospheric songs in the future. Hewson says it’s the first time they’ve done this and after the song he states, ‘We were nervous about that’, but any nervousness certainly didn’t show. 

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Hewson’s voice is really good and yes he does sound like his dad (that would be Bono) at times but he has his own thing going on. It also doesn’t hurt he bears a slight resemblance to Jeff Buckley. All members dress the part of rock and roll musicians and those hairstyles definitely didn’t happen effortlessly. Though any band worth their salt always will claim it’s about the music, we all know that looks and image is ever important in Rock and Roll-land.

Speaking of Rock and Roll, Noel Gallagher is in the audience, not surprising as he’s a friend of the Hewson family and his daughter has been photographing Inhaler. Everything’s related.

My Honest Face serves as good a closing song, just like It Won’t Always Be Like This was the perfect opener. The crowd right in front of the stage go mad, pogoing and moshing and almost force their way to the stage and Hewson has to tell them to step back several times. Finally, bass player Robert Keating solves the problem by jumping into the crowd and pretty much forcing some more space so people at the front don’t get crushed. I don’t think anyone was in any danger but the enthusiasm is infectious and the affection for the band is clear. They’ve been touring a lot in the last year or two and they’ve definitely grown and improved since I saw them in March. If they’ll get a proper breakthrough and become one of the big ones, or even medium-sized bands, remains to be seen. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens once their debut album comes out, but based on tonight at Dingwalls; the reaction from the crowd, a good set of songs executed really well, their stage presence, their stylishly downplayed but clearly thought through rock and roll attire, a frontman who is growing into himself and who can get the audience going – it really looks like Inhaler could be going places much bigger than this.

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Inhaler setlist
1. It Won’t Always Be Like This
2. I Have To Move On
3. Another Like You
4. A Night On the Floor
5. Ice Cream Sundae
6. Save Yourself
7. Oklahoma
8. My King Will Be Kind
9. When I’m With You
10. Cheer Up Baby
11. My Honest Face

Inhaler, Borderline

IMG_2208London, Sunday March 31, 2019

I admit it straight up. The reason we went to this Sunday evening gig at the Borderline, was not to see the main band, Touts, but the second support band, Inhaler, fronted by the son of U2’s Bono, Elijah Hewson. There, I said it. So this review will not include Touts, because by the time I suspect they took to the stage, we were almost home – we do have to get up early for work tomorrow, you know.

We arrive at the small but legendary venue. One of the few that hasn’t been affected – yet – by gentrification and rising rents in the area, unlike former neighbouring venues like Astoria and Mean Fiddler, now long gone. (SAD UPDATE May 13, 2019: Borderline is going to close down in the summer of 2019).

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The first band of the evening is called The Clockworks. They’re loud and the reason we ask the nice woman behind the bar for earplugs, which she freely supplies us with – good service. I’m no longer a youth and I have seen my share of rock and punk bands and felt the excitement, that perhaps you only really feel when you’re a teenager or in your early twenties, when you see a new, happening band. So The Clockworks don’t really do anything for me, but that doesn’t mean they might not be good. I’m just not their audience.

IMG_2156The Clockworks

Then it’s time for Inhaler. It’s impossible not to compare Hewson a little bit to Bono – the young man does dress like like his old man did in his younger years, and the way he stands, kind of lifting his feet up, presumably to make himself appear taller, is definitely also a move lifted or inherited from his dad. Unfortunately, either the sound engineer was having an off-day, or Hewson simply didn’t sing loud enough or project his voice well enough, which is a shame, because he clearly has a good voice. The vocal volume needs to be fixed for future gigs. We need to be able to hear not only the sound of the bass, and the drums and the keyboards and the guitars, but also of the voice. LOUDER, please.

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‘Sunday, Ice Cream Sunday’
Having said that, Inhaler are pretty good, especially the drummer, Ryan McMahon, is impressive. Bass player, Robert Keating, plays well and his backing vocals are actually louder than Hewson’s lead vocals, and his poses certainly rivals those of his lead singer, which sometimes are a bit too much. Josh Jenkinson plays a good lead guitar and his and Hewson’s guitars compliment each other perfectly. Inhaler also has a keyboard player, who to my knowledge is either new or not a permanent member of the band (?), and I’m afraid I don’t know his name, but his synth adds a great atmospheric vibe to the songs.

It is a comical sight to see the several photographers running around in front of the stage, taking pictures throughout the gig. For most concerts of this size there might be one or two photographers taking a few pictures and audience members (like me) taking pictures on their phones. But for tonight’s concert it almost feels like it’s a runway, more than a stage. This is obviously because of the you-know-who connection, and it’s quite funny to watch the photographers almost fall over each other at times, trying to get the best close up.

The six-songs-set is a bunch of songs sounding rather like they’d stepped out of the early eighties – songs that especially stood out were Ice Cream Sunday and Another Like You. The band does pose quite a bit, which seems slightly forced. When I see someone like Eddie Vedder stage dive I don’t know how much he rehearsed it, but I do know it comes across as natural. Inhaler’s poses this evening come across as too cliched – they should probably work on that, and I’m sure they will. With experience, these things will appear more naturally.

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Hewson doesn’t talk much in between songs, but towards the end he says, ‘This is our last song’. Someone in the audience cheers, and he snaps back, ‘Don’t cheer for that’. He seems to know how to interact, and it would suit him – and the band – if he did that more. Then Inhaler plays their debut single, It Won’t Always Be Like This – a catchy song and a fitting way to end the concert.

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So, it was a good gig. Nothing spectacular, but can you really expect spectacular from a new band that’s only just finding their way? Maybe later.

Inhaler setlist
1. The Sound
2. My Honest Face
3. Dublin in Ecstacy
4. Another Like You
5. Ice Cream Sunday
6. It Won’t Always Be Like This