- 13 Nov 23
"This is surreal... we love you Dublin, let's do this again sometime!"
The 2020s have brought a lot in its first three years– plagues, wars, celebrity divorces. But it’s also brought what amounts to a resurgence in guitar rock bands, and Dublin-born Inhaler is a perfect example of the demand for a good old-fashioned four-piece band.
They were supported by the Northern Ireland-born indie star SOAK and Manchester indie rockers Blossoms. Enlisting Blossoms as a support act was a full-circle moment for the band if there ever was one: Inhaler opened for Blossoms five years ago in 2018, and here they were headlining Dublin’s largest indoor arena.
3Arena is packed, with virtually every balcony seat occupied and the general admission standing crowd stretching from wall to wall. The energy only multiplies as the 9 pm stage time gets closer, the crowd screaming along to the best of the last decade’s indie rock including The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys and Florence + The Machine. They’ve gauged the audience perfectly with these song choices, fans singing along to every word everywhere you look.
Inexplicably, there seems to be an abundance of cowboy hats, from pink to black to glittery to light-up. Perhaps it’s a nod to their country-themed music video for ‘If You’re Gonna Break My Heart’, or their recent slew of American tour dates– or maybe even a runoff of the summer’s Barbie fever. Either way, people have dressed up for this gig, and it only adds to the impression that Inhaler has entered what must be the fanbase big leagues.
A healthy 11 minutes past their announced stage time Inhaler take to the stage to frankly ear drum-shattering cheering. They launch right into ‘These Are The Days’, and the feel-good single has the crowds’ feet high off the ground.
They certainly look the part. There aren’t many things cooler than playing in a packed 13,000-capacity venue, and the four of them exude confidence. Guitarist Josh Jenkinson is unfazed by the crowd and bassist Robert Keating has his bass slung so low on his frame his arm can hardly reach the strings, as drummer Ryan McMahon fearlessly attacks the drums with an energized fervor.
“This is surreal,” frontman Elijah Hewson comments, staring out at the 3Arena with wide eyes. Tonight’s gig is the last in a slew of European dates, and it’s undoubtedly a homecoming gig if there ever was one. It’s by far the largest headlining crowd Inhaler has ever seen, and yet something about it feels right, as though they were always destined for a stage of this size.
‘When It Breaks’ is up next, and it injects even more energy into an already kinetic crowd. The screens focus on the front row, in which some fan has created a series of inflatable dolls with the band members’ faces on them and are waving them around to the beat. It’s wacky and it’s fun.
Hewson, also known for his not-so-humble beginnings as the son of U2’s Bono, is the very definition of a rockstar. He’s got the tried and true shaggy dark hair, killer cheekbones and hot-and-he-knows-it grin combination that’s guaranteed to get people to swoon. And swoon people are– girls in Doc Martens screaming along to the words, guys leading the crowd as they jump up and down to the beat.
They’re also swooning in a different sense of the word: in true 3Arena fashion, multiple people have to be carried out from the middle of the pit. It’s always impressive and somewhat heartwarming how the crowd rises to protect each other, people using their phone torches to signal to security that they need assistance.
“Dublin, we love you,” proclaims Hewson halfway into the set. “Here’s a song we wrote about you.” It’s a track we’ve all been waiting for: ‘Dublin In Ecstacy’ brings the house down, played at the musical heart of the very city it was written as a love letter to. The track sees a good seven Irish flags chucked at the stage as well as a good, healthy mosh pit.
‘Love Will Get You There’ follows, and each song seems to get a better reception than the last. They finally wrap up their main set with ‘It Won’t Always Be Like This’, Jenkinson indulging in his guitar solo as Hewson riles the crowd up even further. “Thank you Dublin, this was the best night of our lives,” he proclaims as they finally put their instruments down and head offstage.
But of course, they come right back onstage, chanting appreciated but of course never necessary. They finished off with a triumphant three-song encore: ‘If You’re Gonna Break My Heart’, ‘Just To Keep You Satisfied’ and their biggest single ‘My Honest Face’.
“We love you, let’s do this again sometime!” declares Hewson after the show roars to a close.
This show was effectively a victory lap, Inhaler arriving back home to a fanbase that is bigger than it has ever been– they’re on the precipice of worldwide stardom, and this show might have been the one to tip them right over the edge.