American Aquarium’s frontman, BJ Barham brought the band and the fans to a sold out show at Raleigh’s Lincoln Theatre August 20th. The night was the kickoff for the tour in support of his solo album Rockingham, released on August 19th.
To be sure, Barham enjoys huge support in Raleigh since American Aquarium cut its teeth playing the small bars and clubs in the area. Though the crowd was eager for the headliner, they were treated to a fabulous opener in Justin Osborne from SUSTO. The talented singer- songwriter held everyone’s attention with just a mic, a guitar, cleverly written songs and his witty stage banter.
Barham and the band took the stage around 10pm for an hour and a half set which began with the outstanding eight songs from Rockingham. The material in the collection is a weighty, reflective body of work that looks at life in rural, small town American with none of the romanticized clichés we so often hear. Tales of dreams unfulfilled, economic struggles and the promise of the American Dream largely broken are featured. The driving rock influences of an American Aquarium record are appropriately replaced with heavy emphasis on Whit Wright’s steel guitar and Barham’s affecting vocal delivery which allows the audience to feel the full impact of the lyrics. Especially moving are some of the songs written from the perspective of a father (“Madeline”), a grandfather and war veteran (“American Tobacco Company”) and a grieving yet grateful spouse (“Unfortunate Kind”).
After the final song from the new album, Barham humbly and sincerely thanked the fans who came out on a Saturday night to hear “a bunch of sad songs.” He and the band then performed some American Aquarium fan favorites such as “Wolves,” “Losing Side of Twenty-Five,” “St Mary’s” and “Casualties.”
I hope you get the chance to catch one of the shows on the tour. For lovers of well written songs delivered with a listening room vibe, it’s not to be missed. You can find information on the tour and purchase the album at www.bjbarham.com