The Academic, Review: From back seat straight to front of show

The Academic, Review: From back seat straight to front of show

Does a bunch of 20-somethings have the right to headline the Marquee on the back of just one album, Tales From The Back Seat (January 2018)? The Marquee, the same stage graced by Diana Ross, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Sting, and Christy Moore. Are they good enough? In a word, yes.

Well, when doling out the best weaponry, it seems that the gods of talent did not age discriminate. These young lads from Westmeath really are something special. Their adoring young fans on the tightly packed dance floor are not questioning their right to take over this elevated space.

And they’re right. While the seating is only half full, this is a rocking show, and will go down as one of the most energetic nights here, nestled alongside Biffy Clyro. While the venue has seen bigger crowds, it hasn’t see many more engaged.

The sound is very edgy, broadly classable as indie rock-pop. Each band member brings something special: Vocalist/guitarist Craig Fitzgerald, born star; guitarist Matthew Murtagh, a natural; sibling bassist Stephen Murtagh, an energy bomb; drummer Dean Gavin, a monster.

“Cork, we can’t believe this, holy shit,” said Craig.

This is our first headline night here. This is incredible. Here’s another one.

And straight into another gem. Just one album, but plenty of hits. All killer, no filler: ‘Different’, ‘Why Can’t We Be Friends’, ‘Bear Claw’s. I loved ‘Superbike’ and ‘Chasers’. Loved the whole thing really.

“Everybody doing alright out there? Let me see your hands!” Hands. “Let me hear you say yes!” Yes. Craig is pretty slick, guff to the minimum, party songs to the max. Big voice, total crowd control, the right young man for the job, born to be on a big stage.

Their 2017 warm-up show for The Coronas was arguably the best curtain-raiser that the venue had seen until that point. I reviewed that show for the Irish Examiner, and at the time said they were “the best thing to come out of Mullingar since Joe Dolan”.

They were so good that I wrote: “Does the world have a better warm-up band? Keep it up, lads, the newmaterial deserves its own Marquee headline slot.”

Of course, I wasn’t alone in thinking they’d build a big following. And now there are thousands more tonight who’d agree.

Congrats also to Cork natives Stephanie Rainey and Gerald Ahern on great warm-up sets. This is Rainey and her band’s third warmup slot at the Marquee, this time with the entire audience singing along. “We’re going to be back here soon headlining our own show,” she predicted.

Great voice, instantly memorable songs, we wouldn’t bet against her.

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