"How we feeling out there Scottsdale, Arizona?" BJ screams out to the many in attendance as his band, American Aquarium, immediately whip up a storm on the Scottsdale Civic Center stage with their opener 'Casualties'.
For an hour, the group deliver their good-time energy with a lot of emotion and conviction to them, drawing you in with Barham's lyricism while punching the air with the sheer power of their sound.
This equal balance of celebration and consideration is represented by the immediate mellowing between the beers aloft chant of 'St. Mary's' and the soulful, piano finality of 'Long Haul'. They don't hang around and let the energy drop at any point, though, letting every inch of sentiment and feeling in the songs hit you one after the other like a freight train.
Barham has found the perfect balance of being an observant and expressive poet who’s lyricism is striking and engaging enough in a live setting to have friends new and old singing along by the time the song is up.
The 1/2 salvo of ‘All I Needed’ and ‘Before The Dogwood Blooms’ are gritty reveries that live in hearts immediately and heads indefinitely, Barham hounding the stage as he bounds across it with his band.
BJ's deep bark loses none of its clarity live either, if anything his lyricism impacting more because of the depth and strength of his delivery, particularly on a heartbreaking and striking song like ‘Six Years Come September'.
"We hope you’re having as good a time down there as we are up here, If not, the bar is wide open," Barham jokes, constantly beaming with a smile on his face as they hurdle this time into the euphoric yet bittersweet singalong of 'Losing Side of Twenty Five'.
What really becomes apparent here is just how underrated American Aquarium's songs are - BJ's lyricism is unquestionably at the heart of what makes them such a beloved and die-hard band, but Barham's actual musicianship is what truly makes his words hit home, and live it's the euphoria of the sound that makes you go home and listen even more intently at the first opportunity.
Leaving with a tear on your cheek and a heart full of hope, BJ Barham and American Aquarium prove once more why they are one of the States' most cherished groups.
For more on Dreamy Draw 2023, see below: