Jimmy Buffett left smiles in his wake at Virginia Beach concert
Jimmy Buffett performed at Farm Bureau Live at Virginia Beach on May 26, 2011. (Photo by Jerry S. Altares)
Buffett's first show at the Virginia Beach amphitheater since the year 2000 included all the features and festivity that have made his shows so popular for so long.
The capacity crowd of 20,000 -- draped in Hawaiian floral prints and adorned with shark or parrot hats -- sang along to the hits and raised a toast (or 12) to the man who, for many Americans, has defined the art of good-natured oceanside sloth.
Here are some thoughts about last night's show.
Cover me. Not having attended a Buffett show since 1996, I was surprised by a couple of cover tunes that Buffett and his Coral Reefer Band tossed into the set. After playing his own tune "Great Filling Station Hold Up," he and the band slid into the Allman Brothers Band favorite "Midnight Rider." Later in the set, they tackled the Crosby, Stills and Nash hit "Southern Cross," bringing a little more rock edge to that pillowy tune.
Keep it mellow, man. The intensity of the crowd's party-hardy spirit is a difference I noticed between the 1996 show in Virginia Beach and this one. Certainly people were having a good time and enjoying their adult beverages. But Thursday's show seemed less of a no-hold-barred bacchanal than I remember from the '90s. Buffett's core audience is a decade older and a notch more responsible now. I saw just as much exuberance, just not as much excess.
Memorable moments. During Buffett's decade-long absence from Virginia Beach, his music and attitude has been embraced by the country music establishment. Kenny Chesney, for example, owes a big debt. But Buffett hasn't radically changed his sound. The Caribbean rhythms and straight-ahead rock still make up the thrust of the set. "Pencil Thin Mustache" sounded pleasantly jazzy. "Cheeseburger in Paradise" packed a rock punch. For me, the gentle, acoustic "A Pirate Looks at Forty" was a highlight. Buffett's singing voice hasn't lost its casual charm, but I did miss the harmonica of Greg "Fingers" Taylor.
Local color. Buffett is known for keeping his shows light and breezy and he was in typically good spirits in Virginia Beach. Besides cracking jokes, he made plenty of local references -- sometimes inserting place names in the lyrics of songs. He mentioned Sandbridge and the Outer Banks. During the tune "Fruitcakes" he sang/shouted, "How 'bout a toast to SEAL Team 6 for taking Geronimo out!"
Buffett said on the way to the show Thursday, he had a flashback about a Halloween night he spent at the Virginia Beach oceanfront many years ago. "I was in a low-rent bar dressed in a lobster suit," he told the crowd. "My attitude hasn't changed. I'd do it again tomorrow."