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Despite the ongoing green-clad Saint Patrick’s day festivities around Fenway, a long line of black wrapped a mile down the block outside of House of Blues in the early evening of March 18. It appeared as though every indie-rock aficionado in the greater Boston area chose to forgo the traditional St. Paddy’s weekend bar crawl in favor of celebrating with their favorite Irish punk-pop quartet. Grunge band “Inhaler,” took to the stage at 9 p.m. for their “Cuts & Bruises,” tour, performing their 2023 album of the same name.
It was obvious as Inhaler walked on stage that they were planning on fostering a quintessential angst-filled concert experience for alternative music enthusiasts from all corners of Boston to indulge in. By the end of their set, the band accomplished this goal with flying colors.
The set design was simple: a plain black backdrop with the word “Inhaler” painted across it in bright white ink, classic laser lights with no apparent color scheme, a few stand microphones and a drum set with the Inhaler logo displayed on the front. The white logo on the backdrop changed color depending on its lighting, bringing a unique stage presence to each song. This was the only uniquity of the stage design; a fact which was of no detriment to the performance.
If it weren’t for the hundreds of phones held up by adoring fans trying to capture several moments of the concert for social media consumption, one could mistake themselves to be watching a yet-to-be-discovered young garage band perform. This ambiance was only intensified by the content of their music; lyrics about young love, coming of age themes and living in the moment seep into each of their songs whether they are from the “Cuts & Bruises” album or not.
As Inhaler opened with the upbeat free-spirited anthem “These are The Days,” the energy in the pit was electric. The audience happily sang along as the music melted into the 2019 single “My Honest Face.” The band would have blown through their set with immense momentum had it not been for the brief intermissions prompted by lead singer Elijah Hewson who slowly switched out guitars after every other song.
That being said, Hewson’s stage presence is a force to be reckoned with. The front man has mastered the art of the chaotically earnest, boyishly charming-with-a-dark-side European rockstar archetype most recently popularly embodied by Matty Healy of “The 1975.” 30 or so minutes into his own set, the singer/guitarist coolly asked his audience “What’s the next song again?” to which those who have memorized the set list enthusiastically respond. His fans clearly adore his hijinks.
The authentic quirkiness exemplified by Hewson’s persona penetrated throughout the set. Later in the night, audience members would watch bassist Robert Keating and guitarist Josh Jenkinson saunter towards drummer Ryan McMahon, casually exchanging words in the middle of songs as if they weren’t in a professional rock band actively performing in a packed venue. Seemingly uncalculated details such as this contributed to the authenticity of the performance.
This nonchalant attitude, explicitly communicated via Hewson’s continuous interludes, is also evident in the band’s presentation. They boast messy, undone hair, unbuttoned collared shirts, and jeans. They don’t attempt to put on any complex song-and-dance with choreography or costumes. The feelings evoked by their music are reinforced by their simple, down to earth, yet fashionable approach to performing it.
However, this laissez-faire energy is certainly not evidence of a lack of passion. These artists do not shy away from the angst inherent in their genre of music. As fans screamed “I fuckin’ hate that bitch” while listening to “My King Will Be Kind” (2021), it was clear that the audience found themselves in the midst of the stereotypical teenage grunge-rock concert that young adult media has been advertising forever. One felt like they were living in a black and white Tumblr post from 2012, amplified by Hewson sarcastically shouting “You guys sound great!” into his microphone, eliciting laughs from the audience.
Overall, Inhaler's “Cuts & Bruises” concert was thoroughly entertaining. It was enjoyable to watch the audience call for an encore over and over again 30 minutes before the end of the scheduled set. It was even more enjoyable to watch the band grant said encore, having disposed of their jackets backstage and blasting “If You’re Gonna Break My Heart” in their most dynamic and engaging performance of the night; the audience was truly hanging on to Hewson’s every word. It was exciting to watch McMahon toss his drum sticks into the audience as the band offered cheers to their fans with their drinks before leaving the stage for the final time. For anyone looking for a fun, good old-fashioned indie-rock concert, the “Cuts & Bruises” tour definitely has something to offer.
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