Jimmy Buffet and the Coral Reefer Band took over the Ford Amphitheatre this past Saturday April 24, and it was an electrifying experience, to say the least. I completely underestimated the size of the venue, and the intensity with which the Jimmy Buffet fans, or Parrotheads as they tend to be called, celebrate the concert occasion. [All photos by James Zambon.]
Ive seen tailgating but there are no words to describe the festivities I saw in action just on my way to park for the show. You must just watch and take it in. Grass skirts; coconut bras, on both women and men; parrot, shark, cheeseburger, and straw hats decorated every which way you could imagine. There were Mardi Gras beads, tiki shirts, silky surf tops, board shorts, sun dresses and plenty of Jimmy Buffet shirts, too. Everyone was drinking something, whether it was Landshark beers, margaritas, or mystery drinks out of coconuts and pineapples. Buffet songs were blasted on too many car stereos to count. The place was packed with Parrotheads.
As soon as people started filling in, beach balls were bouncing all over the lawn section and the seated area. Before the show, two roadie-looking characters in board shirts and sleeveless tops came out to entertain the crowd with a t-shirt shooter and a backpack that also served as an extendible palm-tree-shaped basketball net for fans to try and shoot hoops in.
For the beginning of his Under the Big Top tour series, Buffet chose Tampa, and his fans clearly appreciated it. The lawn looked as if it was standing room only and the audience in the seated section seemed ready to dance. With drinks in hand and smiles on faces, the Parrotheads were ready to welcome Buffet onto the stage.
Jimmy Buffet and the Coral Reefer Band appeared and the party began. Behind his big band was a huge LCD screen with beach scenes and landscapes, occasionally sharing footage from Buffets 40 years of touring. The Coral Reefer band consisted of keyboards, steel drums, percussion, guitar, bass, amazing supporting vocals from both male and female vocalists, drums, pedal steel guitar and trumpet, not to mention the Buffet, himself.
The show started off with high energy. Buffet was outfitted in shorts and an A1A shirt. The fans were mouthing the words, dancing, swaying and basically enjoying being Under the Big Top. It seemed like there were thousands of people there to help him kick off his 2010 tour. Buffet could relate and trace almost every single song to an experience in Florida, and every song he played had a story or island tale to accompany it.
He played for about two hours with a quick 15-min intermission halfway through, complete with an old Buffet video to keep us entertained. Notable songs added to the set list for this tour, according to Buffetworld.com, included Knees of My Heart, Frank and Lola, and Tin Cup Chalice. He chose to debut Big Top on Saturday and played the songs everyone knows him for including Cheeseburger in Paradise, and Margaritaville. Unfortunately Why Dont We Get Drunk did not make the set but, the show was amazing nonetheless.
The people or Parrothead-watching at the amphitheatre was epic. They were just as entertaining as Buffet, and when they imbibed more and more drinks, at times they were almost more entertaining. The real die-hards were seemingly stationed in the lawn area. You could feel the care-free, beachcomber vibe within the breeze as it occasionally swept through.
Buffet was very aware of how important his fans are, and how well they can party, Some of you may take flight tonight and never leave the ground, he joked. He claims that its the Tampa Parrotheads that really know how to tailgate. He also mentioned the pirate mentality of those in the land of Gasparilla. By the end of the show he had given away his bracelets and kicked off his flip flops, worn only for the encore, into the crowd to appease his many followers.
Just like Santa, I come once a year, said Buffet. And this year, he gifted devoted fans with a mind-blowing performance. He ended the evening by taking the fans, Away again in Margaritaville. Just before the finale, Buffet said someone once asked, You ever get tired of those songs? He responded, No, because its not about me, its about you and how much the fans love hearing the songs.
As he finished, the crowd went wild with applause banging on any and everything to entice him back for more. He returned within just a couple minutes. The big hit of the encore was Fins. Literally just about every pair of hands and arms in the place made the formation of a shark to swim and sing Fins to the left, fins to the right. It was contagious really, in the best way.
Finally Buffet took the stage alone and bid his fans farewell after the introduction of the Coral Reefer band. The evening surpassed any expectations and overall was just astounding. Id seen some serious fans before but nothing like the Parrotheads. Buffet himself, is even better live than any night you listen to him at home. For forty years hes been rockin his fans, and Saturday night being Under the Big Top with Buffet and the Parrotheads, he kicked off another tour by doing nothing less than that once again.
Setlist from BuffetWorld.com:
Nobody From Nowhere
License to Chill
Knees of My Heart
Its Five OClock Somewhere
Frank and Lola
Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes
If the Phone Doesnt Ring, Its Me
Where the Boat Leaves From (Zac Brown Band Cover)
One Particular Harbour
Everybodys on the Phone
Cheeseburger in Paradise
Son of a Son of a Sailor
Cuban Crime of Passion
A Pirate Looks at Forty
Back Where I Come From (Mac and Jimmy)
Surfin in a Hurricane
Bank of Bad Habits
Tin Cup Chalice (Solo Acoustic)
More pics by James: