A few troubling facts about my trajectory as a Jimmy Buffett fan: The "newest" Buffett CD I own is Banana Wind, which came out in 1996. I've never finished his book, A Pirate Looks at Fifty. Both were gifts. If I were being honest with myself, I'd admit that I'm still floored by last week's incredible Mark Knopfler concert, and I'm not sure if Buffett can even begin to compete. And if I were being really, really honest with myself, I'd admit I'd be pretty content to stay home tonight and listen to Buffett's lovely album from 1975, A1A, with a margarita in hand and greyhound at foot. Furthermore, I don't know where my parrot sarong is, and I don't even have tickets yet. Is there such a thing as a lapsed Parrot Head? Don't know, but there is an online Church of Buffett Orthodox.
I used to admire the Parrot Heads who follow Buffett around on tour, but now I get sort of tired just thinking about it. It seems exhausting -- keeping the coconut bras untangled from the leis, constructing those huge shark fins to put atop your car, constantly banging sand out of your sandals -- I mean, who's got the time?
But this makes me smile: The parking lot at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater opens at 3 p.m. (!), and there are restrictions on what you can bring in: food, water and cameras are forbidden, but beach balls smaller than basketballs and inflatable sharks are totally kosher. This is promising, and I begin to scour Craigslist for lawn tickets, which I acquire in about ten minutes. At home, I tie my sarong around my waist and bake Margarittaville-brand "Volcano shrimp," which are essentially shrimp-stuffed jalapeno poppers. They were on sale at Schnucks for $5.99, and actually, not too bad.
"You're late," says the guy parked next to us, even though we're there to tailgate a good two hours before the show starts.
But we also know he's right. The show has already begun in the parking lot: People pass by with varied inflated sea creatures shoved down their pants and tied to their heads, limo drivers are wearing leis, and people in brightly colored grass skirts swish by about every 30 seconds.
Much like he did two years ago, Buffett starts with a tired "Hot, Hot, Hot" mix. But maybe it's by design -- the line for the women's rest room stretches all the way to the edge of the lawn, and no one seems upset to miss the first few songs. Even this early on, it's apparent that Buffett's voice sounds stronger than it did even a couple years ago. Not only that, but Buffett plays some old stuff ("Coconut Telegraph" and "Knees of My Heart" were especially nice) and it's really, really good. (See the rest of the set list here.) No one would argue that he's got the best voice in the biz or is the most talented musician who ever lived, but the songs roll off in a seemingly effortless way and exude the trademark, easy-going nature he's so revered for.
Though Jimmy's live stuff isn't reinventing the wheel (he often just strongly punctuates the last syllable of a given line, which can get really predictable, really quickly), he does plenty of hometown shout-outs -- appropriate given the number of Coral Reefers who call this region home. Also, he adds some amusing verses to "Volcano," which reference Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull monstrosity, complete with video of people sleeping in airports on the big screen. The two dozen songs fly by, and overwhelmingly, the enraptured crowd is on its feet the entire time.
If religion (and, for that matter, the Church of Buffett Orthodox) is the opiate of the people, this concert made the masses thirst for whatever's on tap. Our spouse wondered out loud which (comparatively) young bands we like will still be touring when they're Buffett's age. We couldn't think of one.
Back in the parking lot, someone yells this toward very pregnant woman: "That is so cool! Your baby's going to a Jimmy Buffett concert!" She smiles appreciatively, and again we wonder how long Buffett can keep it up. Who knows? Maybe he'll still be touring in sixteen years - just long enough for that baby to drive its happy, tipsy parents back home.