American Aquarium have been called the hardest working band on the planet, and it is a designation they’ve earned well, in their ten years of relentless touring. They rolled into Nashville’s 3rd and Lindsley for a Nashville Sunday Night show, closing out one leg of their 2015 tour that has kept them away from home since mid-June.
When 2015 ends, the band will have played over 250 shows in support of their latest album, Wolves. It is an album and tour that almost never happened. When the band released their previous album, Burn.Flicker.Die, it was intended to be a swan song. Touring so hard for so long takes a physical and emotional toll. Something happened along the way, however, that changed the plan. The album caught on, band leader B.J. Barham got sober, and the flame was rekindled.
During the hour-long set on this night (the show was broadcast live on Nashville radio station Lightning 100), the band played with the ease of folks who are grateful for this new lease on life. This ease served them well on the opening three songs all from their latest album: “Man I’m Supposed to Be,” “Wolves,” and the gorgeous “Southern Sadness.”
“Broken windshield and Mardi Gras beads,” Barham sang — the opening lines of “Casualties” from Burn.Flicker.Die. It’s one of the band’s best songs, which brought the crowd up and showed that the band still had energy for the last show of this leg of their seemingly never-ending tour.
They reached back to 2010’s Small Town Hymn for “Hurricane” — a metaphor for a devastating woman who once dated two members of the band simultaneously. “Lonely Ain’t Easy,” meanwhile, was easily the crowd favorite of the set.
“Losing Side of 25” and “End Over End” from Wolves were followed by “Jacksonville” from the previous album, and the band ended the set with two more songs from Wolves. The last was the devastating “Family Problems” — a song made hopeful in light of Barham’s recovery.
After the broadcast ended, Barham returned to the stage alone for an unexpected encore. He played “Road to Nowhere” from 2008’s The Bible and The Bottle album before bringing the band back for one final song, “Ramblin’ Ways” from Wolves. It’s an upbeat song about the economic realities of the music business and of the importance of having someone to come home to at the end of a long tour.
Nashville by way of Muscle Shoals duo Firekid opened the show with a set of great songs that mixed acoustic and electronic sounds in a unique way (one song featured musical accompaniment by a programmed Gameboy). “Americana Dream” was perhaps the duo’s best song — a pretty funny take on the ubiquitousness of the still relatively new musical genre.