Friday, August 18, 2000

Concert review: Jimmy Buffett

'Where it all began' welcomes back Buffett

By Larry Nager
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A wildly dressed — and undressed — mob of 20,000 Parrotheads, on their feet, moving to island rhythms and tossing a blizzard of beach balls around Riverbend's lawn and pavilion. The Buffett Bacchanal had begun, and the band wasn't even onstage yet.

        Thursday night, the party started early, while a recorded version of “Hot Hot Hot” was still pouring out of the speakers, and the Coral Reefer Band was just setting up behind a screen. When they hit the opening song, “Great Heart,” Mardi Gras kicked in full tilt.

        “Oh, those Thursday night crowds,” said a grinning Jimmy Buffett, shaking his finger at the screaming horde. “The people who don't give a (darn) about going to work tomorrow.” Cincinnati seems to be more than just another concert stop for the singer/songwriter, and he repeatedly called it “where it all began,” referring to Parrotheadism.

        That can be a mixed blessing, as Mr. Buffett has been known to occasionally surf on the adoration of the crowds here, barely breaking a sweat.

        That wasn't the case Thursday, as he and his band worked hard for almost 2 1/2 hours. The old, elaborate props and skits are gone. Instead, Mr. Buffett and his 11-member band (plus two female dancers and a crew of carnival drummers) focused on the music, including the rarely heard “A1A.”

        The stage set was a bamboo beach bar, complete with ceiling fan and island-view backdrop. It set the right mood, as Mr. Buffett worked through more than 25 years of tropical songs.

        The departed Fingers Taylor was sorely missed. When Mr. Buffett returned for his final encore, “A Pirate Looks at 40,” instead of Mr. Taylor's poignant harmonica, Amy Lee's overwrought soprano sax was the counterpoint.

        If some hard-core Parrotheads missed the old sound, most were happy to sing along on “Why Don't We Get Drunk,” and “Margaritaville” and do the “Fins” dance.

        The star of the show seemed genuinely happy to be there, mentioning Skyline chili, decorated pigs (including Riverbend's own Parrothead pig) and Paul Brown Stadium. His gratitude also seemed authentic, as he thanked the crowd for so many years of local support. “When nobody else was listening or gave a damn, Cincinnati, Ohio, was here.”


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