Inhaler @ O2 Academy 2, 13th February 2020.

It’s difficult at this stage in their career for Dublin newcomers Inhaler to be judged away from the umbrella of frontman Eli Hewson’s family connections — he’s the son of U2 legend Bono.  Less than a year since they released their debut single the band have been on a whirlwind trajectory that has seen them make the BBC’s Sound Of 2020 shortlist, tour the US with Blossoms and work their way into bigger venues here in the UK.  Tonight taking in a sold-out crowd in Birmingham as part of the journey.

Beginning with the punchy ‘When I’m With You’ it’s immediately evident that the band are onto a winning formula with a tight alternative pop sound that pits the soaring indie melodicism of Sam Fender and Blossoms alongside plenty of nods to ‘80s new wave and post-punk bands like Echo & The Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes and yes, it’s hard not to hear early U2 in Eli’s voice of course.

The band’s singles to date are greeted with a rush of excitement from the predominantly young crowd, with the whole room bouncing to ‘It Won’t Always Be Like This’ and the catchy and considered ‘Ice Cream Sundae’ one of many highlights in tonight’s set. Eli tries to engage with the crowd, mentioning how it seems like a long time since they last played Birmingham but admitting that he can’t really see much of the audience from the stage. Some of the as-yet unreleased tracks have a meatier sound, the cool swagger of ‘Falling In’ in particular allowing the band to press forward and showcase what lies ahead whilst the more familiar single ‘We Have To Move On’ has a driving urgency with sharp guitars and powerful vocals.

Promising an album is on the way, tonight’s set is kept pretty short with a bit of punk-rock attitude creeping in during closer ‘My Honest Face’ when after bassist Robert Keating spends much of the song down in front of the barrier, Eli’s mic stand comes down with a crash and the band make a swift exit. Next time, you get the feeling things will be even bigger and better, but it’s clear to see that Inhaler’s rapid rise shows no sign of slowing any time soon.

Support comes from Coventry indie-punk outfit Feet, who open the show with a fun set that combines the slackerpop style of bands like Sports Team with an edginess closer perhaps to Fontaines DC or the pop-punk sensibilities of prime Buzzcocks. Tracks like ‘English Weather’ and ‘Ad Blue’ have a funky feel to them and singer George takes the opportunity to chicken-dance his way through the set until the punkish ‘Petty Thieving’ and ‘Outer Rim’ bring things to a frenetic close. They’re a great opener and their live show is engaging and upbeat, clearly gaining the approval of the front few rows tonight.


Reviewer:  Ian Paget

Photographer: Ian Dunn

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