Engine Rooms, Southampton - 17/10/2022
Last year was huge for Inhaler: with the release of their debut album, It Won’t Always Be Like This, which charted in the UK and Ireland at number 1, making them the first Irish act in 13 years to do so and the record the fastest selling debut album on vinyl of any band this century, as well as headline tours all over the UK, Ireland, Europe and America. But as predicted, things seem to be getting even bigger for the Dublin quartet, with another huge tour scheduled in for next year, support slots with indie veterans, Arctic Monkeys, pop icon, Harry Styles, and Sam Fender, at his massive sold out hometown affair next summer.
One of the announcements that has got their avid fan base really buzzing, however, is the unveiling of their sophomore album, Cuts & Bruises, mere days before the start of their five-date tour of the UK, set for release on 17th February 2023. You really could say that they are curing our February blues (see Cheer Up Baby).
Like most events in the past couple of years, tonight’s show at Southampton’s Engine Rooms has been a long time in the making.
Originally announced as a record store tour date hosted by Southampton and Bournemouth independent store, Vinilo, during the It Won’t Always Be Like This album campaign, but rescheduled the day of the show due to covid cases in the touring party (a real sign of the times), then no longer being part of the record store runs, but instead added into the autumn tour, the show was finally happening a year and a bit later.
From the beginning, there’s a real feeling of excitement that continues to build as the 800 capacity of Southampton’s Engine Rooms gradually fills. Some fans had queued from the early afternoon, whilst conversations outside outlined the enthusiasm for the upcoming album. As the queue begins to move past the band’s tour bus, the singing of some of Inhaler’s most loved songs (fan favourite Cheer Up Baby comes to mind) can be heard.
Inside, there’s a race to occupy the front few rows, with fans eager to get as close to the stage as possible.
There’s a bit of a wait before the main event; however, the gap feels much shorter thanks to the incredibly high energy half hour set from Liverpool post-punk band, STONE. From the moment they step on stage, they are met with the same cheers and enthusiasm that you’d expect from the main act, and their performance quickly matches the energy of the crowd; there’s plenty of head banging and high kicks.
The crowd interaction is also worth noting. There’s a group in the centre of the pit who sing along to every word of the support, gaining acknowledgement from a bemused Fin Power (the frontman), who spends the short set constantly bouncing across the stage, only stopping to stand with one leg on the speakers to get closer to those in the audience.
Just hours before their support slot, the band released new track, Money (Hope Ain’t Gone), which still kept the drive of the crowd up. If this was the response to the support act, the main event was looking as though it was going to be an unforgettably ecstatic show!
At 9pm, the lights go down and pulse, as one by one, each member of Inhaler enter the stage and the opening riff of first taster from Cuts & Bruises, These Are The Days, is played.
Whilst many in the crowd are mourning the loss of It Won’t Always Be Like This as the opening number of every show, These Are The Days is equally just as good of an opening tune to get the crowd going. “These are/These are the days that follow you home/These are the days that kiss you on your broken nose/These are the days/I don’t miss the feeling of being alone” perfectly encapsulates the feelings of euphoria and anticipation of going to a gig and those memories “follow[ing] you home” making it a really fitting first song.
The entire set feels a bit jumbled and messy to anyone who has been a long-term Inhaler concert-goer; songs such as When It Breaks and Totally feel premature, whilst some fan-favourite tracks, for example, Ice Cream Sundae, Falling In and A Night On The Floor have been cut entirely tonight.
In comparison to shows on previous Inhaler tours, the lighting this time around is also somewhat of a let down. For the majority of the show, the members appear to be lost within the fog and drowned in the harsh lighting, making it difficult to see frontman, Elijah Hewson, and near impossible to see drummer, Ryan McMahon, and guitarist, Josh Jenkinson (Personally, I spent the show in the second row directly in front of bassist, Robert Keating, however, it was still difficult to consistently see him clearly throughout the set).
Dodgy lighting and an incoherent set aside though, the music (which is what we are all here for) sounds as good as ever. The thick and incredibly resonant baseline of Who’s Your Money On? is always a moment in the set that is sure to get the crowd going, and today is no different, with the entire audience bouncing, arms in the air, to the serotonin-induced chorus (“We can go round to a friend’s house and get stoned/We can talk about things that we never say when we’re alone”), whilst the second half of the track, Plastic House, offers a break from the high energy of the anthemic and uplifting songs, and instead showcases the true extent of Hewson’s vocals, all whilst the lights project a kaleidoscopic effect over him, consequently washing out the rest of the stage, making this to be a really atmospheric and stunning moment in the set.
It’s not just the slower tracks that emphasise how much frontman Eli Hewson’s vocals have improved live over the course of the year; during new release, which both sonically and lyrically is reminiscent of legendary rock band The Strokes, Love Will Get You There, Hewson delivers the words effortlessly hitting every single note, rather than belting the lyrics and almost shouting them in that typical indie rock band style that many other bands opt for and which can be heard on some of Inhaler’s older tunes. I’d argue that this track alone suggests the development of a more mature musical direction that Inhaler are taking on, proving them to be a band that really do deserve to be reaching the highest heights.
It’s impossible to talk about an Inhaler gig without mentioning possibly the greatest moment of every show, and arguably the fan-favourite; My King Will Be Kind, accompanied by Josh playing an acoustic guitar, is the track that boasts that line that every single person in the audience takes great pleasure in screaming as loud as possible, drowning out the music blaring from the speakers from the live band. It’s incredibly therapeutic. Rumour has it, therapists really hate Inhaler for the catharsis they provide the crowds during this song alone.
You know a band are making it big when they have a encore, though just before, they do the old “trying to fool the crowd that they are ending the show to leave them wanting more whilst they’re off stage” trick, by playing two of their most upbeat tunes, the reshuffled It Won’t Always Be Like This and crowd sing-along number Cheer Up Baby (a song described by the band as a “love letter to our fans”), which are met with enough jumping and pure elation to cause the room to shake.
“One more song, one more song”, the crowd roar as the band exit the stage. It’s unlikely that they haven’t caught on with the idea of the encore, or they’re just being a good sport. I’d put it down to the latter. “We had to nip to the shop”, Eli announces, can of beer in hand, clearly proud of his joke.
Hewson’s vocals, and the development in sound of the band on the whole, are further emphasised through the teaser of currently unreleased Cuts & Bruises track If You’re Gonna Break My Heart, a tune that cuts deep with its mellow and more moody tones. It offers a segment of melancholy and the lyrics feel like some of Inhaler’s most vulnerable yet; “If you’re gonna break my heart/Smash it pieces/Cause I’m not gonna need it/As much as I do right now.”
As the evening draws to a close, there’s only one track up for the job of greatest closer, and luckily, it looks as though it’s a firm constant in the set. As the opening guitar riff and synth line of the electric My Honest Face are played, the crowd are moshing and waving their arms above them from the get go. The lights pulsate and it’s probably the clearest we’ve been able to see the indie rock quartet all night. The final release of any remaining built up energy and pure excitement of the crowd is imminent as we approach the brash middle 8. Hewson repeatedly calls out, “One more time!” before “I wanna be/Up On Tv/Kill the fear” is the cue for one final mosh, and the crowd surges forwards from everyone jumping without a single care, and chanting every last word.
The It Won’t Always Be Like This era will be so greatly missed by many, but the new era is already shaping up to be a good one.
Inhaler's new album, Cuts & Bruises is set for release on 17th February 2023 and you can preorder it here.
Inhaler are going back on tour in the UK, Ireland, Europe and America next year and you can secure your tickets here.
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