I’m asthmatic. I’ve used an inhaler since I can remember. They’ve never been sexy. They’ve never been very rock and roll. Recently something has changed. Firstly Foals, then Miles Kane release tracks titled ‘Inhaler’. Secondly, not one, but two bands appear with the name Inhaler. There was even talk of possible court proceedings between the two to see who got custody of the name. It might be time for us asthmatics to rise and reclaim the word. ‘Asthma suffers of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your breath’.
Tonight, a sold-out, sweaty, Liverpool Arts Club hosts the Dublin version of Inhaler. There’s been a hullabaloo around Inhaler for some time. There would be when the lead singer’s dad is Bono; your photographs are taken by Anais Gallagher, and her dad Noel, is a fan and invites you to support him at his home town show. Time to see what all the racket is about.
Supporting Inhaler on this tour are APRE. I was immediately confused. The APRE that I had been listening to were a pop-synth duo, but on stage in front of me were a four-piece indie band complete with guitars and proper drums. In-between sets I grabbed a word with APRE main man Charlie Brown and asked him about this change. His explanation was that he and band mate Jules Konieczny felt that live they needed a bigger, fuller, live sound. The addition of real percussion and guitars from Matt Dinnadge and Robin Vernay transforms APRE’s sound dramatically. They open with ‘Go Somewhere’ and ‘All Yours’. APRE’s sound is funky basslines and drum-loops mixed with real percussion, allied to swirling guitar riffs. There are no gaps in the music and its eminently danceable.
The high-point of their set for me was the almost pious ‘Come Down’. Charlie stands centre stage, hand raised as if blessing the packed congregation, or perhaps he’s summoning down some deity and sings, ‘Someone that loves you is changing above you, come down’. A guy in front of my had such a profound experience that at the end of the song he shouts out, ‘Jesus loves you man’. ‘He loves you too’ is Charlie’s response. Most of the packed Arts Club loved APRE’s set too.
You can tell a lot about a band’s influences by their choice of soundtrack as bands change over. Tonight’s interlude music includes Echo and the Bunnymen’s ‘Over the Wall’, and ‘She’s Lost Control’ by Joy Division. Read into that what you will.
If you’re a band called Inhaler, what should your walk-on music be? Pink Floyd’s’ ‘Breathe’ of course. Inhaler are Elijah Hewson (Lead vocals/guitar), Josh Jenkinson (guitar), Rob Keating (bass) and Ryan McMahon (drums). There’s also a keyboard player whose name I didn’t get, but he did bear a remarkable resemblance to a young a Billy Currie. The band take to the stage and Hewson greets the packed, expectant crowd with a raised fist and the affirmation, ‘Scouse not English, yeah?’. It’s a reference to wording sometimes seen on flags displayed by fans of Liverpool F.C., or to an actual local sentiment depending on your point of view. Perhaps Hewson is trying to play on the Liverpool/Ireland connection and build some camaraderie with the crowd. The remark appears to go over the head of most.
Inhaler open their set with ‘It Won’t Always be Like This’ and proceed to produce a refined set of rock and roll songs and a shining performance that belies their tender years. Hewson is a great front man comfortable in the role. Rob Keating is not only ‘Too cool for school’ he’s also too cool for any form of further or higher education. Josh Jenkinson on guitar assumed the quiet man role usually reserved for bass players. Musically I’ve seen comparisons made between Inhaler and early U2 and Bunnymen. Well it’s hard to escape your DNA, and the mix of melodic guitar riffs and synths do lend a certain early 80’s rock feel to Inhaler’s sound. Attitude wise I’d put Inhaler closer to The Jesus and Mary Chain. They know how good they are, and you can come along if we want. As well as polish in their performance there’s a certain nonchalance or arrogance even. But it’s easy to be arrogant when you’ve got the songs to back it up. The jaunty ‘Ice Cream Sundae’ and the haunting ‘My King Will be Kind’ are mid-gig highlights. The set ends with the raucous single ‘My Honest Face’ rattling the rafters of the Arts Club loft. Before the reverb stops the band have gone. No encore. They’ve done their job.
To be honest, it was a strange mix in the venue tonight. Probably half proper fans of the band, and half who’ve come to see what all the fuss is about. The ‘fuss-about’ ones should certainly have been won over. But don’t just take it from me. As Chuck D said,’ Don’t believe the hype’. In this day of fake news, go out and find out for yourself.