- 31 Mar 23
A night of musical magic was in store, when recent Hot Press cover stars The Academic took the stage at a special Hot Press Windmill Live series gig on Thursday. And so it proved, as the band celebrated the success of their latest No.1 Irish album, Sitting Pretty.
The Academic really are at the top of their game! Hot off the release of their second studio album Sitting Pretty, the Irish rockers came to their hotly-anticipated, Hot Press-curated Windmill Live show on a high – and proceeded to electrify the packed auditorium with a thoroughly brilliant performance.
Critical acclaim is nothing new for the hugely-talented Irish four-piece. Their 2018 debut LP Tales From The Backseat earned them widespread plaudits before claiming the No. 1 spot on the Official Irish Albums Chart. And they haven't put a foot wrong in the interim.
Five years on, their newest song collection Sitting Pretty has followed in its predecessor’s footsteps, also leaping to No. 1 on the Irish Album Charts. It's a record that marks the band's increasing maturity – both as musicians and as songwriters...
In a special Hot Press cover story interview with Pat Carty, bassist Stephen Murtagh explained: “The first album feels like such a summery record, a young debut album. I don’t think this album feels that way. It feels like a natural progression without losing sight of what makes us… us.”
Wise words, well spoken. But how would it affect their live show? There was only one way of finding out...
Queues of fans flooded into the Windmill Quarter on Thursday, making it a very good night for the legendary local, The Dockers! But once the music started, the house full signs went up in the venue and it was game on!
Rising star Sammy Copley took to the stage first. 2022 was a particularly successful year for Copley, who was included in TikTok’s Top 10 most viewed artists in Ireland last year, and also garnered over 3.7 million streams on Spotify. The 21-year-old songwriter was recently selected as one of our Hot Press ‘Hot For 2023’ acts.
After an introduction from Hot Press’ Stuart Clark, the young musician opened with his single ‘Trains’ from his debut LP Growing Pains. Copley sang with heart and soul beyond his years, delivering infectious tunes with an equally infectious smile. The Dublin-based artist later transitioned to his fan favourite track, ‘Irish Goodbye’.
“This next song is about emigration,” he said. “I wrote it about the feeling that I think every young person, especially artists, come across at one point or another, that this country kind of sucks sometimes. And even though you love it, sometimes it feels like it doesn’t really love you back.”
That poignant song was followed by another crowd-pleaser, ‘Elephant’, which earned the rising star an enthusiastic round of applause. Job done!
There was a tantalising wait before Hot Press cover stars and the night’s headliners Craig Fitzgerald (vocalist/guitarist), Dean Gavin (drummer), and brothers Matthew (lead guitarist) and Stephen (bassist) Murtagh ascended to the stage, to rapturous cheers from the Windmill Quarter crowd.
The four-piece opened with their new breakout single ‘Pushing Up Daisies’, which almost immediately had fans jumping to the thunderous beat, setting the tone for a night of dance anthems, rock magic and the occasional winning ballad. The Irish rockers swept into ‘Anything Could Happen’ and ‘Mixtape 2003’, both from 2020, with waves of fans instantly singing along to every word while raising their fists in joy.
The band brought things back to the present with ‘Let Go Of My Heart’, with frontman Craig Fitzgerald demonstrating brilliantly how to involve the crowd in the performance. He led the audience in everything from clapping to swaying to jumping, indicating that whatever he did, the crowd was sure to follow. Thankfully, he stayed within the law at all times!
“Thank you so much for being here,” Fitzgerald told the clearly besotted crowd.
He thanked fans for propelling the band to the top of the Irish charts again and shared some thoughts on The Academic’s upcoming tour of North America in April. “This gives us the emotional strength to deal with the shit fucking motels we’re gonna be sleeping in,” he remarked to much laughter.
As the set developed, the band evoked the spirit of the rock 'n' roll greats while delivering a sound that is entirely their own. The impassioned crowd jumped in to finish lines of their songs, with Tales From The Backseat track ‘I Feel It Too’ being a highlight.
“Well done, that was good,” Fitzgerald encouraged the crowd with a large grin.
The band's performance of Sitting Pretty track ‘What’s Wrong With Me’ hit similar heights, with Dean Gavin on drums, Matthew Murtagh on lead guitar and Stephen Murtagh on bass, superbly underpinning the deeply relatable lyrics tackling love and loss:
How do I end up in these situations with no control?
How do I end up pretending and faking?
I love it though I don’t know, does anyone know what’s wrong with me? (What’s wrong with me?)
I’m hearing the signals it couldn’t be clearer in stereo
I’m not really there in your life to be fair I’m a cameo
I don’t know, does anyone know what’s wrong with me? (What’s wrong with me?)
As Pat Carty wrote in his Hot Press review of Sitting Pretty, “They've moved on from fake ids to the self-doubt that getting a bit older engenders – characters are still disobeying curfews and the like, but a verse later they’re buying houses and although they’re asking ‘What’s Wrong With Me’ because ‘Heartbreak’s Where It’s At’, at least they can dance away the pain.”
In a sweetly ironic moment, a fan threw a stuffed toy squirrel on stage and Fitzgerald took the time to dance with it while performing ‘Acting My Age’, which deals with the expectations that can haunt us as we grow older.
The Academic kept the energy high with ‘Homesick’, ‘Northern Boy’ and ‘Step My Way’, before performing their 2018 anthem ‘Different’. The band received a collective hero’s worth of applause as they left the stage. Of course, within seconds, hungry fans were already chanting “One more tune!” in unison. The four-piece returned to encore with ‘Right Where You Left Me’, ‘Girlfriends’ and Tales From The Backseat favourite ‘Bear Claws’.
Wrapping up their set, Fitzgerald made a promise to the crowd: “We’ll be back as soon as we can.” There was rapturous applause as the band walked off stage.
After the show, The Academic signed copies of their new LP and stayed to meet and greet a multitude of fans with warm smiles, closing out a truly memorable night.
The band are set to embark on their North American tour this month: it is an important moment for them. Tonight, it became clear that these Irish rockers really are ready to aim for the stratosphere. Let's hope the stars align – and that The Academic can teach us all afresh how it really should be done – with honesty and integrity...
Listen to Sitting Pretty below.
- Live Review
- 29 May 23