Inhaler, The Borderline, London, March 31, 2019

I admit it straight up. We went to this Sunday evening gig at the Borderline, 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. The band is 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 do much 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 as his old man did in his younger years, and the way he stands, lifting his feet, presumably to make himself appear taller, is also a move stolen or inherited from his dad. Unfortunately, either the sound engineer was having an off-day, or Hewson didn’t sing loud enough or project his voice well enough, which is a shame because he has a good voice. The volume needs to be fixed for future gigs, and the instruments shouldn’t drown out the vocals.

Inhaler is pretty good, especially the drummer, Ryan McMahon, who is impressive. Bass player, Robert Keating, plays well and his backing vocals are louder than Hewson’s lead vocals, and his poses certainly rival those of his lead singer, which sometimes come across as a bit silly. Josh Jenkinson plays a good lead guitar, and his and Hewson’s guitars complement 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 pretty 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 somewhat 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 natural.

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 made for singing along with and a fitting way to end the concert.

So, it was a good gig. Nothing spectacular, but can you expect stunning from a new band that’s only just finding its way in the music world? 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

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