The Academic At Vicar Street – Review
The Academic at Vicar Street – 11 March 2016
A genre which has laid in the doldrums for much of the decade, indie rock ‘n’ roll is experiencing something of a revival having previously dominated the musical landscape for the best part of the noughties. As the market reached saturation point, bands like Hard-Fi, Maximo Park, and The Fratellis fell by the wayside as mainstream musical tastes edged closer towards r’n’b and pop. However, over the past two years the genre has risen phoenix-like from the ashes with new bands such as Catfish and The Bottlemen and Circa Waves, providing indie music with a much needed shot in the arm. With musical trends cyclical by nature, many believe there is a gap in the current market for a young indie band to step in and sweep all before them. Step forward The Academic. Ireland has been quietly producing its own promising indie acts over the past number of years and tonight’s lineup feels like one big celebration party for the country’s burgeoning indie rock scene.
Few bands would book Vicar Street, one of Dublin’s most prestigious musical venues, solely off the back of one five-track EP release, but Mullingar’s The Academic are no ordinary band. The fresh faced four-piece had a stellar 2015, with radio-slaying debut single ‘Different’ gaining massive traction and numerous festival slots both at home and abroad. Such was the popularity of ‘Different’ (with over one million Spotify plays) and its epic follow-up single ‘Northern Boy’, the 1000+ capacity venue is suitably packed. First up, newcomers Ivy Nations’ upbeat set wins over the rapidly growing audience before State Lights take to the stage like seasoned pros with a set chock full of big U2-style numbers. Frontman Shobsy not only has an incredible voice complete with a soaring falsetto, he also possesses a natural frontman charisma that can’t be taught. Opening with debut single ‘Breakout’ and Razorlight-esque future single ‘Love Is In Your Eyes’, the band play a short but sweet set that ensures them a place on Irish music’s ‘Ones to Watch for 2016’ list and makes their forthcoming The Disguise EP a release definitely worth checking out.
Having headlined an incendiary show last year to a packed Workman’s Club, that night The Academic looked like a band ready to burst through into mainstream consciousness. Tonight with a sound system and lighting rig to match their lofty ambitions, they take another step closer to stardom. Opening with the looping guitar riff of the Two Door Cinema Club style ‘Chasers’ from their Loose Friends EP, the band look like they’ve been headlining venues of this magnitude all their lives. Wasting no time in between the opening few numbers, they follow up with the catchy ‘Forrest’ complete with a wonderful lead guitar line that sticks in the memory on first listen. This breathless opening pace results in the opening five tracks passing by in what seems like mere minutes.
Like many great rock acts, the key to The Academic’s appeal is the diversity of their sound. While we already knew how adept they are at catchy indie-pop, a handful of brand new songs are dropped into tonight’s set with the Strokes-like ‘2003’ being particularly impressive, showcasing a grittier edge to the band’s sound. The stop-start singalong of ‘Bear Claws’ is an indie classic-in-waiting, while EP closer ‘I thought I Told You’ takes on an altogether darker, more menacing tone. The yet to be released ‘Girlfriend’ is a mid-paced singalong which could, in both musical and lyrical terms, slot onto Kings Of Leon’s ‘Because Of The Times’ without missing a beat, with its reverb soaked guitars, memorable chorus hooks, pitch perfect harmonies and talk of ‘running away and living like a renegade’.
With the show passing the hour mark, the scene is set for the hit single grand finale and, when it comes, ‘Different’ sounds arena-sized, sending the packed crowd wild. With the new music unveiled tonight further strengthening an already impressive live setlist, The Academic are fast becoming one of Irish music’s ‘must-see’ live acts. With bundles of energy and a real knack for a killer chorus, expect the debut album to take this fast-rising foursome into rock’s premier league.