Live Review: Julien Baker / Ratboys – Whelan’s, Dublin 22.05.2022

American Indie-rock artist Julien Baker made a stop in Dublin to play two nights the city’s intimate Whelan’s venue this weekend as part of the European leg of her world tour and I was lucky enough to catch the second of the two nights. It’s not often you get a chance to see such a prevalent American artist in a 400 cap venue and it was such a fantastic night!

Support act Ratboys, who are doing the whole European run with Julien were a fantastic start to the night. The Chicago based band brought a fantastic sound to the venue with jangly guitars and fat bass lines being extremely prominent in their music. The stand out song in their set was ‘Elvis Is in the Freezer’, a song about lead singer Julia Steiner’s cat passing away while she was away at college and her Mother keeping Elvis in the freezer until she got home. This song had a great bassline by Sean Neumann and tight drumming by Marcus Nuccio, which was complemented with bluesy guitars provided by Julia herself and lead guitarist Dave Sagan. The rest of the set continued in the same manner with their bluesy roots rock sound shining through and even leaning into a more punk style at times. This was particularly evident when they played the first track off their new album which they are currently mixing on the road which definitely leaned on a more punk influence with screaming guitars and fast drumming throughout! The set finished with two songs which ran right into each other and really brought the listener on a journey to the Antarctic before that punk sound hit you like a truck once again. What a great way to finish a set! I will definitely be diving deeper into Ratboys discography after this performance!

Julien started the set out strong going back to back for the first 3 songs playing tracks from her latest album ‘Little Oblivions’ straight away, opening with ‘Hardline’ and ‘Bloodshot’ before playing ‘Shadowboxing’ off her album ‘Turn out the Lights’. The first thing I noticed when her and her band took the stage is how huge they sounded in the intimate venue. Julien took no time to settle in getting straight into it, showing great emotion from the start.

After a short break to tune her guitar, fan favourites ‘Favor’ and ‘Relative Fiction’ were next, with the crowd giving a big round of applause at the end of those songs. ’Heatwave’ was a beautiful moment in the set with the track starting with only Julien and her guitar before the full band came in for the first chorus. Julien was also able to showcase her vocal range in this song with it ranging from low almost spoken sections before she belted the chorus.  ‘Ringside’ was my personal favourite track on the night, with the crowd swaying along enjoying the track. The chorus packed that signature Julien Baker punch belting the word’s ‘Jesus can you save me now’.

Julien took to the stage without the rest of the band for the emotional tracks ‘Sprained Ankle’ and ‘ Song in E’ playing the the keys on her own for the latter. The words ‘I wish that I drank because of you and not me’, definitely struck a chord with tears coming to several people’s eyes. This was a touching moment in the set that brought some calm to the chaos of the rest of the show.

‘Faith Healer’ livened things up again with the band really adding to this song whilst the crowd bopped and sang along! After this song she took the time to introduce her band Mariah Schneider on guitar and synth, Matthew Gillam on drums, Calvin Lauber on bass and Noah Forbes on keys, before breaking right into ‘Tokyo’. The big finish of this song saw the band rocking out on stage together, giving it their all.

The end of the set included some older songs such as ‘Sour Breath’, ‘Appointments’, and ‘Ziptie’ which the crowd seemed to thoroughly enjoy. Overall, it was a fantastic night of music which was very enjoyable to be a part of. I doubt we will ever see Julien play such an intimate Irish venue again, so it was fantastic to be there!  

Previous Live Review: Bess Atwell / Benjamin Francis Leftwich / Bear’s Den - Eventim Apollo, London 18.05.2022
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