“Look what floated in on the flood!” Jimmy Buffett exclaimed as he and his 11-piece Coral Reefer Band took the stage at Stubb’s Tuesday evening for a late-announced, quickly-sold-out show at a venue about seven times smaller than the one he played last time he was here.
If a lot more people got to see him at the Austin360 Amphitheater in May 2014, the 2,000-odd fans who shelled out $95 for tickets to this show when they went on sale just five days earlier got a much more intimate experience. It wasn’t an entirely surprising move: Though he’s played Austin360 Amphitheater the past two years, Buffett played at ACL Live just after Memorial Day in 2012. He explained at the start of Tuesday’s two-hour show that “we always sneak into town to do our rehearsals here,” which sometimes leads to such surprise smaller gigs.
After Monday’s massive flooding, there was some question whether the show would even take place, given that the outdoor stage at Stubb’s borders Waller Creek. But the venue showed no signs of damage, and patrons packed the place tightly but happily on a humid night broken up by an occasional tropical breeze that seemed delivered straight out of a Coral Reefer Band song.
Opening with “License to Chill,” Buffett brought smiles to a crowd that tossed a couple of beach balls and snapped a few mobile photos and videos but mostly took part just by singing and swaying along to the music. “As I looked out my hotel window last night,” Buffett noted after the first song, “I thought, well, Austin might become an island at any moment.” Not to make too much light of the situation, he quickly added that “we’re leaving all the money from this for the people who got hurt here.”
It was a gesture appreciated by the many “Parrothead” superfans in the crowd, who even have their own local organization. Bobby Zuhn, promotions director for the Central Texas Parrothead Club, watched the show from midway back, sporting the obligatory headgear and letting folks know about a post-show party as he touted the group’s “party with a purpose” events for charities such as Hope Alliance, Austin Pets Alive and the Capital Area Food Bank.
On stage, Buffett frequently tipped his hat to his band members, touting the interplay between pedal steel guitarist Doyle Grisham and steelpan percussionist Robert Greenidge as “like putting your two best hubcaps on the front tires.” He also celebrated the recent marriage of longtime keyboardist Michael Utley’s son to the daughter of guitarist Mac McAnally, who got his moment in the spotlight singing Alan Jackson’s part on “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere.”
Buffett turned sentimental as he introduced “Come Monday,” his 1974 breakthrough single. “Some of you may have seen us in the Castle Creek days,” he said, referring to a pair of December 1974 performances at the long-gone Austin nightclub. He gave a shout-out to longtime running buddy Jerry Jeff Walker before concluding that “music is the heart and soul of this city,” to warm cheers from an audience that represented both old and new Austin.
The show continued with perennial fan favorites such as “Fins” and “Margaritaville,” the latter of which was partly written in Austin in the mid-1970s after a visit to a Mexican restaurant on Anderson Lane. “When it comes right down to it, Austin IS margaritaville,” Buffett acknowledged as the song ended.
Obligatory if gimmicky numbers such as “Cheeseburger in Paradise and “Why Don’t We Get Drunk” followed before a pair of choice covers, Lyle Lovett’s “If I Had a Boat” and the Crosby, Stills & Nash hit “Southern Cross, bookended Buffett’s signature ballad “A Pirate Looks at Forty,” which was the concert’s clear highlight. He’s looking at 70 now — he’ll be there in December 2016 — but with the Coral Reefer Band still at his side, Buffett seems ready to raise the sails and ride the waves for many years to come.
1. License to Chill
2. Coconut Telegraph
3. Off to See the Lizard
4. Grapefruit–Juicy Fruit
5. The Great Filling Station Holdup
6. Son of a Son of a Sailor
7. Five O’Clock Somewhere
8. Blue Guitar
9. Come Monday
13. Bama Breeze
14. Cheeseburger in Paradise
15. Why Don’t We Get Drunk
16. If I Had a Boat
17. A Pirate Looks at Forty
18. Southern Cross
19. Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes
20. We Are the People Our Parents Warned Us About
21. Tin Cup Chalice (solo acoustic)