Pryzm, Kingston (Banquet Records) - 07/06/2023
Cuts & Bruises, the sophomore record from Dublin quartet Inhaler, has been out since February, however, due to a packed schedule touring the record internationally, the record store shows to promote it only happened this week (06/07/23). But it was worth the wait!
Due to popular demand, the band performed two sell out shows at Kingston's Pryzm in association with Banquet Records, playing Cuts & Bruises in full within an intimate setting. From the morning of the shows, fans lined the streets of Kingston eager to get as close to the band as they can, dressed in home-made Inhaler themed cowboy hats, merchandise (both official and fan-made), and colourful sunglasses - all common Inhaler gig attire.
After the fans with tickets for the first show (5pm) enter the venue, the queue is moved closer to the doors, where it continues to grow exponentially over the course of the next couple of hours. Eventually, 7pm rolls around. Over the course of the next twenty minutes or so, fans file out of Pryzm; setlists, drumsticks and guitar picks are flaunted as they walk past the queue, their faces depicting pure elation. Anticipation only runs higher in the late show queue.
Following a pre-show playlist consisting of the likes of The Hives and Arctic Monkeys, the latter whom the band recently supported in Europe, Inhaler take to the much smaller stage compared to what we've got used to seeing them on lately. Opening with These Are The Days, the track that has replaced It Won't Always Be Like This as the opening song during live shows, the crowd are full of energy from the get-go. Arms are flailing in the air and iPhone screens are quick to join them, fans not wanting to let the moment slip away.
Since tonight is all about the celebration of the release of Cuts & Bruises, there are a few songs on tonight's setlist that haven't yet received the live treatment. Notably, When I Have Her On My Mind, the brutally honest eighth track on the record, is played for the first time live on this run of promotional record store shows. And admittedly, you can tell that the track hasn't been played as frequently as other tracks on tonight's set, with Hewson attempting to make up lyrics during the song's middle 8.
Similarly, the crowd are treated to the last two tracks on the album, The Things I Do and Now You Got Me, which on previous dates this year, have rarely been played, constantly coming and going in the live sets. The latter, Eli introduces as a song "about being in a band" before going into the opening bars of one of the heavier sonics, delivering a performance euphoric enough to persuade anyone to start a band. To be hearing both tunes in the same night feels really special.
It's important to remember why approximately four thousand people (across two shows) have gathered in Kingston on this random Wednesday night in June; Eli takes a moment mid-set to thank the crowd for buying the album. He's not doing it to hint that we should pick a copy up on the way out (which you can do on the merch stand, mind) - to secure entry to this intimate performance, every member of the audience tonight had to purchase a copy of the new record through Kingston indies Banquet Records. And the band have every right to be thankful tonight; the record debuted at number two on release week here in the UK, and went straight to number one in the charts over on their home soil of Ireland.
The affection doesn't diminish at album sales, however. The crowd interaction is consistent throughout the hour long set with Hewson and bassist, Robert Keating, coming down into the crowd and leaning in close to those lining the front few rows during songs. Before the haunting guitar riff of Valentine begins, Hewson also makes a dedication to everyone in attendance tonight.
A track similar in sonics to Valentine is Perfect Storm, a gentle number with complexity in the verses and a simple, memorable chorus offering a sing-a-long moment for crowds, giving it a stadium-rock readiness. The imagery on the middle 8, however, is a stand out feature of the track, due to how tender they are: 'There's something in the room with us tonight/It's caught between the dawn and morning light/Something that you said that drove it home/Left me underneath in your perfect storm//Something that you said that changed the tide/Tangled in the weight of our own lies/Is everything we had as good as gone?/Lying in the wreck of your perfect storm' Arguably, this track boasts some of the best lyrics Inhaler have written to date, and the crowd singing every word back, giving the band their all only strengthens this.
In fact, throughout the set, the crowd manage to match the band's energy and enthusiasm. Singles such as Love Will Get You There and If You're Gonna Break My Heart are the familiar moments that really get Pryzm's capacity going. The latter bizarrely receives one of the rowdiest reactions that I've seen at an Inhaler show with a mosh pit starting in the standing area which contracts so tightly, the crowd appears to have halved in size at its extremity.
Having attended many Inhaler shows prior to tonight, it feels really strange to be watching them play a set without usual live show staples such as Cheer Up Baby, My King Will Be Kind and, of course, It Won't Always Be Like This. However, as a surprise at the end, the band perform fan-favourite (and seemingly band favourite considering they've released it on three separate occasions), My Honest Face, the classic, and perfect, Inhaler gig closer. "Everybody in this room: we want to see you move, we wanna see you sing, we wanna see you smile" Hewson instructs as he introduces the song. And the crowd follow orders immediately. The pit is opened once again, fans sing along to the opening instrumental and the view of the band is obstructed by jumping bodies and the careless waving of arms.
And all this energy comes before it's even turned nine o'clock - the beauty of a record store show!
Seeing Inhaler in such an intimate, sweaty venue feels really special, especially considering we got to hear every track on the new album receive the live treatment before such a dedicated and enthusiastic group of fans. And with their major support slots with Sam Fender and Harry Styles over the weekend, as well as their freshly announced homecoming show at Dublin's 3Arena at the end of the year, it's unlikely we'll be seeing Inhaler in such close proximity again for a while. It's only going to get more euphoric from here!
Banquet Records is an independent record store situated in Kingston upon Thames, Greater London. They stock a broad range of music on CD, cassette and vinyl formats, as well as hosting incredible intimate instore shows with the best in the industry, as well as outstores in venues such as Pryzm. You can find them at https://www.banquetrecords.com or on social media:
Twitter - @BanquetRecords
Instagram - @banquetrecords
Facebook - @banquetrecords
Inhaler are playing festivals this summer, as well as touring Europe in October before finishing off the Cuts & Bruises world tour in Dublin in November. You can find the full list of their live dates and festival slots here.
Cuts & Bruises, the sophomore album from Inhaler, is out now via Polydor Records.