It’s 20 July 2018, the sky overhead is cloudy but it’s warm and the air is fresh from the light showers that Dublin experienced earlier in the day. The beautiful Iveagh Gardens in the centre of the city is a buzz of activity as the sold out crowd await the arrival of the Mullingar sensation, The Academic.
Even before The Academic take the stage there is a sense that tonight is going to be a little bit special. Shows like this can often fall foul to “the event attendees”, people who are looking for a night out in Dublin and see that a band who they are vaguely familiar with from the radio have a show coming up. This can often lead to large outdoor shows being more about getting that perfect Instagram or Snapchat story rather than actually enjoying the music and seeing a band that you like. However, this was not one of those occasions and from early in the night there was a feeling in the air that everyone was there for the right reason.
The development of the band over the past few years has seen them grow into one of the most accomplished live acts in Irish music at the moment, and this is immediately evident from the very first song, but not in the way you’d expect. The band open with their current single, I Feel It Too, a strong start but instantly there’s a hitch, there’s a problem with front man Craig Fitzgerald’s guitar. No problem, Craig casts the guitar aside, grabs the microphone, and works the crowd and the stage like a seasoned pro. This sense of comfort with the nuances of live music is clear in the other members of the band too as Matt Murtagh (lead guitar), Stephen Murtagh (bass), and Dean Gavin (drums) are accomplished and captivating across the night.
This was a band at the height of their powers, in total control and at ease with the environment that they are playing in, and across the night they flew through their set list with an effortlessness that was truly impressive. For long term fans of the band, as well as the songs from their no. 1 album, Tales from the Backseat, the band also performed some of the songs from their outstanding debut EP from October 2015, Loose Friends, with Chasers and Thought I told You still sounding as fresh and exciting as the first time they were recorded.
Songs like Fake ID, Television (my favourite song by the band), Bear Claws, and Why Can’t We Be Friends (ok, maybe this is actually my favourite song) were moments of incredible energy that showcased all that is good about The Academic when they are in full flow, the light rain shower that fell during Why Can’t We Be Friends only helping to add to the moment.
And when you have a song like Different to finish with… What more do you want?
Back in May, The Academic got the opportunity of a life time for a young band, being granted the support slot for The Rolling Stones in Croke Park – and they looked and sounded the part.
There was plenty of evidence in the Iveagh Gardens last month to suggest that it might not be the last time The Academic play Croke Park, but next time their name might be a bit bigger on the poster.