London, 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).
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.
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.
‘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.
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.
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.
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