PHOTOS: Blossoms lead British Isles showcase, Inhaler makes West Coast debut at the Independent


Blossoms perform at the Independent in San Francisco on Nov. 13, 2019. Gary Chancer/Staff.

SAN FRANCISCO — English indie pop band Blossoms headlined a three-act lineup at the Independent that also included the California debut of Dublin quintet Inhaler—fronted by Bono’s son Elijah Hewson.

The headliners, making just their third appearance in San Francisco, as lead singer and guitarist Tom Ogden pointed out, were playing the penultimate show on a short U.S. tour. Blossoms most recently released a new single, “Your Girlfriend,” and are completing their third full-length record, expected in January.

The band casually climbed the steps onto the stage, picked up their instruments and at the flip of a switch kicked into “At Most a Kiss,” off its 2016 self-titled debut. “I Can’t Stand It,” from 2018 album Cool Like You, had a sunny Britpop vibe underscored by Myles Kellock’s organ-like keyboard noodling. “Blow,” also from the older album, came across as a blend of blues rock and doo-wop, while on “Honey Sweet,” guitarist Josh Dewhurst and  bassist Charlie Salt created a sped-up, anxiety-ridden heartbeat with their instruments.

Blossoms continued adding more elements to their sound with each song, such as a psychedelic vibe on “Blown Rose” and a surf rock groove on “I Just Imagined You.” “Your Girlfriend” was the only new song to make an appearance, later in the set.

Inhaler, a hot commodity in the U.K. and in Europe, was playing its first shows in the U.S. on this tour. In San Francisco, the band drew an interesting crowd: Exuberant older U2 fans and others who likely have never heard of the young Irish band. While Hewson did resemble and sometimes sound like his rock star dad, the band hewed closer to new wave revival acts like Editors.


Inhaler performs at the Independent in San Francisco on Nov. 13, 2019.

After opening with uptempo track, “It Won’t Always Be Like This,” Hewson, guitarist Josh Jenkinson, bassist Robert Keating, drummer Ryan McMahon and a keyboardist kept the pace going with “We Have to Move On,” which recalled Joy Division. The frontman played a guitar through every uptempo track like the poppier, shimmering “Ice Cream Sundae.”

“When I’m With You” featured some crunchy riffs by Jenkinson, “King Will Be Kind” had a sort of honky tonk country into before course-correcting into a sleek, dark chord progression, and Inhaler closed with its first U.K. radio hit, “My Honest Face,” which sounded live like The Killers circa Hot Fuss.

British singer-songwriter Roman Lewis opened the show with a 25-minute set of folky songs that he performed on an acoustic guitar. At times he would vocally rise to a quivering falsetto. At others, his voice would rumble along like a young Bob Dylan.

Roman Lewis

Roman Lewis performs at the Independent in San Francisco on Nov. 13, 2019.

His set included “Midnight in Paris,” a delicate ballad that included a verse in French and “I’m a Fool For You,” which he described as being a hormonal teenager and had a rapid-fire spoken word delivery. He transformed Joy Division’s “Disorder” into a folky number some likely didn’t recognize, while original cut “When I Was Yours” was performed in a boisterous ramshackle delivery.

Between songs, Lewis quipped that he wasn’t allowed to talk to concertgoers until the show over because he was 18 and thus had to remain backstage.

— Roman Gokhman

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