Are & Inhaler, Dingwalls, London, 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 into the venue, expectant fans are already occupying the first few rows in front of the stage, but there’s plenty of room on the side on a raised platform, which is perfect for short people like me.

I saw Inhaler earlier this year supporting another band at the now-closed down Borderline, and they were decent. Tonight they’re headlining. The support band, Apre, is very 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. A band to explore further.

And then it’s time for headlining band, Inhaler. Singer Eli Hewson is more extroverted at this concert than at the last show I saw with them. 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 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.

I’m only familiar with four songs of the 11-song set; opener It Won’t Always Be Like This, the closing song My Honest Face, current single Ice Cream Sundae and B-side Oklahoma.

At one point, Hewson and guitarist Josh Jenkinson are alone on stage performing an acoustic version of Oklahoma. It’s a 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. 

Hewson’s voice is very 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 that he bears a slight resemblance to Jeff Buckley. All members dress the part of rock and roll musicians, and those hairstyles 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 are ever crucial 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 forcing 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. Clearly, no one was in any danger, but the animated enthusiasm is infectious, and the affection for the band is evident. 

Inhaler has been touring a lot in the last year or two, and they’ve grown and improved since I saw the band 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. For now, they pretty much check all the obligatory rockstar-in-waiting boxes: An enthusiastic reaction from the crowd, a good set of songs executed perfectly, their stage presence, their stylishly downplayed but thought through rock and roll attire, a frontman who is growing into himself and who can get the audience going. Based on tonight at Dingwalls, it looks like Inhaler could be going places much bigger than this.

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

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