The Scene: The Pepsi Center was filled with Caribbean Soul last Tuesday night. Hearing that tickets were dirt cheap all over town, I was worried it might be a sparse crowd. Instead it was the usual feeding frenzy that is a Jimmy Buffett concert.
I had not seen Buffett in about ten years and had forgotten just how worked up his Parrotheads get! While the arena was filled with mostly middle-aged professionals, whose yearly big night out are a babysitter and Buffett, there were also a hefty number of younger folks who were surely brought up on this music.
Outside the venue I lost count at thirty of the most stretched out limos you could find, full of Parrot Heads who haven’t cut loose in a while and could afford to do it in style. I myself took the 15 down Colfax, and then the mall ride. Before music even started, there were beach balls flying, fins waving and Tequila debilitating. Two guys came on stage to dance, flip and shoot shirts to the soundtrack of “Hot, Hot, Hot” and the entire place was on its feet and foaming at the mouth for a t-shirt. As backdrops of exotic destinations flashed on a Times Square sized screen, we forgot about the day starting off at 37 degrees and pretended it was a never ending summer.
Jimmy Buffett’s catalogue spans over 26 studio albums and a ton of live recordings and it is not rare for people to own them all. His simple songwriting and island imagery numbs out the monotony for those in the suburbs and mired in a life they didn’t expect. There was a time when I lived and breathed Jimmy Buffett, as proven by my Facebook status update the day of the show, which started off: “Between the ages of 14-17 I had a Caribbean Soul mural on my bedroom wall, 8 feet by 10ft.” His words saved me from my Catskills basement bedroom, and his music led me to Hemingway at the age of 14.
Jimmy Buffett: Jimmy bounced on stage with vim and vigor, not showing his age in appearance or attitude. Contagiously joyful as always, he worked the crowd and took us through over 30 years of material without skipping a beat. He sounded exactly like he did 10 years ago, probably because his Coral Reefers are as much of the night as he is, and they have perfected these songs over decades. Watching everyone sing along to “Come Monday” was a great feeling; it really brought back my summer vacations in the south, which were always soundtracked by Buffett and his fantastic band. People stood for all 27 songs and sung every word, sometimes holding their hands to the sky in praise.
Jimmy talked about how he and his band have defied the odds, having such a long run of success with their Caribbean rock and roll, and while he has never claimed to be the best musician, he has lived our dreams for us our entire lives. His songs pump fun and frivolousness into our veins when we need it most. If you have never sung “Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw,” “Margaritaville” or “Volcano” with 15,000 people in Hawaiian shirts, you have missed out on one of the great American past times. The music is not meant to be taken too seriously, but the fun and good times are!
Jimmy joked about falling off the stage in Australia a while back and while I thought he might have lost something due to that incident, he proved me wrong. He played a marathon show with the stamina of an elite athlete. It was great to see him radiate joy on stage. It was as clear as ever that this guy loves to perform and is thankful for everything he has. He has come a long way since learning three guitar chords in college to help him get laid and he has built an empire around the vision of strumming a guitar on the beach and sailing with questionable cargo. His fans have been with him every step of the way.
Setlist: The Wino And I Know, Brown Eyed Girl, Off To See The Lizard, Pencil Thin Mustache, It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere, Changes In Latitudes Changes In Attitudes, Life Is Just A Tire Swing, Come Monday, Boat Drinks, Son Of A Son Of A Sailor, School Boy Heart, Cheeseburger In Paradise, One Particular Harbor, Use Me, Migration, Jolly Mon Sing, Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw, Volcano, Bama Breeze, Margaritaville, A Pirate Looks At Forty, Back Where I Come From, Fins
First Encore: Knee Deep, Southern Cross, Last Man Standing
Second Encore: Defying Gravity
Stage Presence: A-
Set/Light Show: B