Midday through Inhaler’s raucous UK tour stop in Manchester, frontman Elijah Hewson addresses the crowd. “This one’s for everyone who queued up from 7am!” he beams, dedicating ‘Falling In’ to them. His praising of the die-hard early birds might sound like hyperbole, but the frenzied reaction of the audience – baptising each other with tossed pints and vaulting onto each other’s shoulders – sends the gig erupting into glorious chaos.
It’s easy to be cynical about the Dublin quartet. In a time when the arts have never felt more inaccessible to working class kids and those without family connections – and where the benefit system increasingly resembles Squid Game – Inhaler are led by Bono’s son (whose Joshua Family Tree also includes Elijah’s sister, The Luminaries actor Eve Hewson). The band originally cut their teeth on early tours opening for Noel Gallagher. Overriding any cries of privilege however are the quality of the songs – their chart-topping debut album ‘It Won’t Always Be Like This’ is packed with grabby hooks and surging choruses.
At times, yes, Hewson’s chip-off-the-block singing makes them sound like U2 v.2, but the majority of the time they more closely resemble a slick Spotify playlist of mid-noughties indie-disco floorfillers: with flickers of The Killers, Two Door Cinema Club and The Courteeners. They expertly pull off the false memory trick of having songs that are new but sound instantly familiar, and after eighteen long months of being locked down in a country where ‘Mr Brightside’ is the National Anthem, it’s the perfect tension-release music for students coming out of their cage to go berserk to.
Opening with their debut’s rabble-rousing title track (with a spotlight given to Josh Jenkinson’s guitar solo),the serotonin levels barely drop for the whole set. ‘We Have To Move On’ ramps up the dopamine, while the twinkly synths of ‘Ice Cream Sundae’ and ‘80s soft-focus rock of ‘Totally’ sound like cuts from The 1975’s self-titled first record. The bouncy ‘Who’s Your Money On? (Plastic House)’ meanwhile tips a sonic hat to Foals’ ‘My Number’.
Throughout, Hewson feels like a born frontman – he may be playing a 1,500 capacity venue, but his voice should be echoing around arenas. Outsized Irish flags are held proudly aloft to ‘In My Sleep’ (dedicated to their home country), serving to remind us that Inhaler were the first Irish band to top the UK charts in 13 years. By the time the winning ‘My Honest Face’ rolls around, with its King Of Leon ‘Sex on Fire’-recalling chorus, they’ve more than stepped out of any mocking familial shadow. Maybe they’re even worth queuing up from 7am for.
‘It Won’t Always Be Like This’
‘We Have to Move On’
‘Slide Out the Window’
‘Ice Cream Sundae’
‘When It Breaks’
‘A Night on the Floor’
‘Who’s Your Money On? (Plastic House)’
‘My King Will Be Kind’
‘In My Sleep’
‘Cheer Up Baby’
‘My Honest Face’