Inhaler are celebrating the announcement of their second album Cuts And Bruises with a short run of their biggest UK headline shows to date. A sold-out audience packed into an expectant Manchester Academy on Saturday night to witness a band on the ascendancy to much bigger things. Support came from Liverpool's Stone.
Much always gets made of the rivalry between Manchester and Liverpool, but off the football pitch the two cities have more in common than they don't. And one is a shared love of music. The response from the Manchester crowd to Stone's powerful half-hour set and Fin's declaration of love for the city and its "music venue on every street corner" is genuine on both sides. Half way through the set, one of their protest songs gets taken over by a chant of "fuck the Tories" to the ubiquitous riff of The White Stripes' Seven Nation Army that's a reminder that we change things when we're united rather than divided.
If Manchester didn't know of Stone before the set they do by the end, the front part of the Academy bouncing along to Dance To The Real Thing, Waste and a final Leave It Out. Sarah and Elliot bounce round the stage, looking like they're living out the rock star fantasies they dreamt of when they first picked up their instrument and it's impossible not to be drawn in by the energy. They look like they belong on these bigger stages, rather than the cramped ones we've seen them on before, which is just as well, because in twelve to eighteen months time they're likely to be headlining rooms like this on their own.
There's a real raw sense of anticipation and buzz as stage time approaches. The Inhaler crew are cheered as they set up equipment, but that's only a precursor to the deafening roars and screams as Eli, Josh, Rob, Ryan and Louis make their way onto the stage. Inhaler are now big league and this venue will be seen as intimate by the time album two lands and has its full impact. Songs are almost drowned out by the singing along to every single word even the two recent reveals from Cuts And Bruises - Love Will Get You There and the set's opener These Are The Days.
The set clocks in at just over an hour, there's little in the way of new insights into album two - other than If You're Going To Break My Heart, which opens the encore with Eli telling us "no one's heard this one before" - but that's not the point of these shows. When they come back in the Spring, some of these debut album songs that have defined them so far will depart from the setlist and this is a celebration of that record. If You're Going To Break My Heart will see rooms full of phones held aloft singing along as they do when the likes of It Won't Always Be Like This, Cheer Up Baby, My King Will Be Kind and the night's final song My Honest Face strike up, but tonight is about how far this band have come in a relatively short space of time.
There's no big rock star show and pretense about Inhaler. The stage and lighting set up is modest but effective, allowing the focus to remain on the songs themselves. A couple of times they stop and check on someone being OK down the front, Eli reads a banner that says a fan has told her mother about them, but otherwise they don't say a great deal but still make a connection with their adoring audience. Pits form, homemade banners are held up for them to read and there's a real sense of joy as the crowd bounce non-stop from song to song.
This very much feels like a stepping stone for Inhaler, a signing off on the first era of the band, and next time they're back in Manchester it'll be in the Apollo or even bigger as they have 2023 mapped out in front of them with a new album, a prestigious Arctic Monkeys tour support and an unstoppable momentum. For an hour or so they had three and a half thousand people under their spell.