Thursday, April 21, 2005

Buffett in top form
at the Shell

Jimmy Buffett may act like a simple beach-bum minstrel to Parrothead fans, but the performer proved again Tuesday night at the Waikiki Shell that he's an unbeatable showman.

Only four other acts in the music business made more money than Buffett ($36.5 million) last year, who, in his "A Salty Piece of Land Tour " -- named after his best-selling novel -- performance with the Coral Reefer Band, proved there's no need to change a thing about his act.

Buffett and the band gave one of their best Hawaii concerts ever in a well-paced and seamless performance of 27 songs in nearly three hours before a sold-out audience of 8,800 devotees.

The concert was particularly special because Buffett dueted with old friend Henry Kapono and new acquaintance ukulele protégé Jake Shimabukuro. More about that later.

Buffett was in good spirits, looking forward to four days off after the concert, and his voice has never sounded better, hitting high and low notes with ease, frisking around the stage like a performer half his 59 years, and emotionally embracing the hysterical audience.

BEFORE BUFFETT kicked off the show with the robust "Piece of Work" from last year's Grammy Award nominated "License to Chill" CD, Parrotheads from teens to grandparents were on their feet cheering. They had come from as far as Ohio, Massachusetts and French Polynesia. Many wore parrothead pieces, straw skirts, coconut bras, shark fins and Buffett logo wear.

Sherry Atkins and Camille Anderson flew in from Cincinnati, Ohio, to attend their 48th Buffett event. Each carried large placards with messages of devotion to Buffett, who late in the show acknowledged them with an "Aloha Cincinnati!," sending the women into a frenzy. "I may have had a, uh, moment when Jimmy yelled to us," said Atkins, a sales clerk.

"Aloha, we are back in Hawaii and the Pacific Rim," Buffett said after the opening song. "We're turning Tuesday night into Saturday night. Are you ready?"

He certainly was.

Floyd Campbell, 56, and his wife Jeanette, 54, of San Jose, Calif., arrived Sunday night with suitcases full of Parrothead paraphernalia after attending Buffett's San Jose concert last week. They arrived at The Shell at about 3 p.m., though the gates were to open at 5.

"I couldn't stay in my hotel because I was so excited," said Floyd, dressed in a Margaritaville aloha shirt festooned with glasses of margaritas, red shorts covered in tiny shark fins with the lyrics to Buffett's song "Fins," and a yellow-and-red visor shaped like gaping shark jaws. Jeannette wore large gray homemade foam fins over each arm, a foam shark's head and fin on her back held in place by a belt.

"We only get carried away for Jimmy," said Jeanette, a bank clerk. "We really are very normal, boring people otherwise."

Floyd, a housing contractor, added, "Jimmy makes it OK for regular folk to be wacky on occasion. It's why we love him like a friend."

THE SHOW was enough to explain Buffett's longevity. Of course, the Parrothead did his staples for the congregation but sprinkled the set with oldies. Buffett knows his congregation would get unruly if their deity omitted "Margaritaville," "Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes," "Volcano" and "Cheeseburger in Paradise."

One would think that after 30 years of performing, he must tire of hits like "Come Monday," but one wouldn't know from his enthusiastic performance. When Buffett came to the part where he yells out, "It's so nice to be in Hawaii again" -- emphasizing the state in which he's going to put a restaurant in 2007 -- the song seemed fresh, his smile infectious.

A rousing audience group sing of Hank Williams's "Hey Good Lookin' " let Buffett stray back to his bar-band days. "Trip Around the Sun" was another country rock anthem that got the audience dancing.

It was a surprising treat to hear some refurbished oldies the Coral Reefer band hasn't played live in years. "Woman Goin' Crazy on Caroline Street" from 1974's "Havana Daydreamin' " featured a more driving arrangement than the slick original. Kudos to guitarist Peter Mayer.

Buffett also paid tribute to duet partner Alan Jackson, with whom he sang his first No. 1 hit, last year's "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere," a hedonistic anthem that fits Buffett's gleeful escapism.

Waikiki waiters David Anderson and Ricardo Gomez, both 20, and Todd Blanchard, 22, wore straw skirts and loose-fitting coconut bras.

"We're total Parrotheads," Anderson said. "I've worn this outfit for three Buffett concerts and I'll keep wearing it. But I don't have the boobs to keep the coconuts in place."

When Gomez and Blanchard bumped hips during "Cheeseburger in Paradise," "Brown Eyed Girl" and "Margaritaville," women on both sides of them joined in. "I tell you the coconut bras are babe magnets," Gomez said.

ON STAGE, Buffett's four female dancers were long, lean and sexy but their movements and costumes never ventured into the risqué. Buffett knows his audience base now largely comprises families who bring their your children to his concerts, although it appeared there were far more under 30s than at last year's concert.

Cindy Langley, 18, and Tanya Brown, 19, agreed. They attended with 12 other friends, none older than 21.

"Jimmy is the bomb," said Langley, wearing a Margaritaville tank top. "He's adorable and so cute. His songs just make you want to have fun. We wish he had done a second show."

Brown's parents took her to a Buffett concert last year in the southeast.

"I resisted for a long time, you know, because it was my parents who liked him and how uncool is that!" said Brown, whose T-shirt read "My Fins are Bigger than Your Fins!"

"But once I saw Jimmy I was hooked. It's weird that my mom and dad and I like the same music, but so what?!"

Surfing legend and 60-plus Joey Cabel danced, despite a recent knee-replacement operation, near the stage, next to a swaying boy less than 10 years old. Former Four Preps singer and co-creator of "Magnum, P.I.," Glen Larson, also swayed to a few tunes.

Buffett paced the evening's exuberance by introducing a second set of three meditative songs, "Banana Republic," "A Pirate Looks at 40" and a magical rendition of Crosby Stills & Nash's "Southern Cross," that allowed audience members to catch their breath before more foot-stomping songs, including the closer, "Margaritaville."

The first of two encores included the fan interactive "Fins," then "Scarlet Begonias," giving Shimabukuro a shining moment when he let the uke virtuoso play more of the song than the two had planned. When Shimabukuro finished, Buffett whispered, "Passing the torch, Jake."

A chicken-skin moment occurred when Kapono joined Buffett and Shimabukuro to perform the Kapono-penned "Dukes on Sunday" about playing at the popular Waikiki restaurant. Buffett stepped out of the spotlight to let his friend shine for most of second encore. Kapono appeared touched by the gift and played magnificently.

As I'm sure they feel in Cleveland, Anaheim, Boston and Toronto, Buffett convinced us that he loves Hawaii best of all.

It's the second consecutive year that Buffett has sold out a concert here and Buffett said later Parrotheads can prepare for a three-peat.

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