Remembering 2022 – Kings Of Leon // Inhaler // Live Review // The SSE Arena // Belfast
1999 Nashville, Tennessee three brothers and their cousin decided to set the world alight and right there, right then, the Kings Of Leon were born. As many bands do they evolve over time and their influences gradually fade away and they find their own voice, the Kings Of Leon of course gained worldwide notoriety back in 2008 with their global sensation Only By The night with the release of ‘Sex On Fire’, ‘Use Somebody’ and ‘Notion’ which propelled them from a hard working midsize venue kind of band and into the limelight and rocking those stadiums overnight.
Tonight some two decades later we get the opportunity to appreciate this finely tuned machine after releasing their eighth studio album ‘When You See Yourself’ back mid-pandemic in 2021. Like so many bands the opportunity to tour their albums have been badly delayed, but they’re here and ready to rip it up!
Tonight was ave Irish upstarts Inhaler, these guys have been living their best lives touring the world and slaying it all in the name of Irish public relations! Fair play, we caught them not too long ago after two nights sold out at the Limelight in Belfast and their highly energetic performance was gobbled up by the enthusiastic teen crowd then, how will they fare on the big stage at the SSE and how with the KOL fan-base take to them? Let’s find out!
As we walk into the arena to take our place in the pit to shoot the band, a stream of people is heading out to the bars and at 7:30 the lights go out and the SSE erupts for the arrival of this young Irish band. Inhaler is a band with great potential, already achieving so much in their young years these guys will no doubt go from strength to strength, what always takes me by surprise is just how chilled if not sedate their style of music is, you would typically have guys their age going nuts on stage throwing themselves around like caged animals but not Inhaler. At a canter, their set comes and goes and as they transport you on this sonic journey I can only hope that they grasp their youthful energy and run with it a little more, bringing more of that Irish charm and musical heritage to the fore and take over the world one album at a time.
A short break and fans once again scramble for the loo and for the bars as people stream in and out of the arena, as the clock ticks down to the arrival of Nashville, Tennessee’s favourite sons. The lights go out and like a crack of lightning the stage flashes, the band members take their places and they break into song with ‘When You See Yourself, Are You far Away’, as with Inhaler the light is let’s say “Atmospheric” to say the least. As a photographer in the pit, I look at my colleagues with despair and think this is going to be a long 10 minutes at most. I wasn’t wrong, stuck stage right for the whole time and in the dark I’d say it was the most challenging time in any photo pit to date. But to those standing on the other side of the pit barrier, it all looks glorious I am sure, with dappled light falling on the boys from Tennessee while their ambient rock flows out over the packed-out SSE Arena.
What ensues is a free-flowing show packed with stadium-sized sing-along anthems that the guys have forged over their twenty-plus-year career, now eight studio albums in there have been a lifetime of miles on the road, honing their craft both live and in the studio. Growing together as a band and shaped their sound over the years to bigger more rounded songwriting to be worthy of those stadium-sized shows. While many of their fans will of course be hanging on for those famous tunes, you don’t get to eight studio albums without having the quality and pull to have records labels support you on your journey.
Their free-flowing and ethereal sound fills the arena and as far as the eye can see bodies are swaying as they push out a catalogue so vast their setlist runs into twenty-plus songs, great value for the devoted fan indeed, and a night packed with charm and delicate songwriting, with fan favourites mingled with album classics and live staples, the night is drawn to a close with their infamous track ‘Sex On Fire’ and as people step out of the arena into the summer night the Belfast crowd goes home happy, fulfilled with that Nashville charm wrapped around them like a warm blanket.