Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band at Great Woods
Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band
There is incomprehensible magic surrounding Jimmy Buffett – the “King of Somewhere Hot” – and his longtime outfit of Coral Reefers. Call it a blessing bestowed upon him, if you will, or perhaps a cosmic heightening upon breaking the Curse of the Bambino during his two-night Fenway residency in 2004. Regardless of where your thoughts align, it is impossible to deny Buffett’s captivating prowess, and his magnetism. It goes without saying that he is an immensely gifted individual and wordsmith who brings wide-eyed, childlike innocence to his live performance – an innate quality doubling as a playful reminder to live in the moment, to love to the fullest potential, and to live well in one’s immediate sphere of influence. It is through the embodiment of the island escapist lifestyle and a lighthearted, mirthful mindset that Buffett epitomizes Carpe Diem and continues to dedicate his life to demonstrating how such a mantra and lustful outlook has the ability to be cultivated no matter your locale, occupation, or background. Having gained incredible popularity and amassed a cult following in the ‘70s and ‘80s for penning quintessential “feel-good” songs encouraging revelry and debauchery, including “Margaritaville,” “Why Don’t We Get Drunk (And Screw),” “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” and the soon-to-be-released “Too Drunk to Karaoke,” Buffett is a deity that many individuals come from faraway lands to worship at the altar of. Further evidence of this can be seen in the grandiose pre-show tailgating experience. An event in itself and its sole requirement being to remain open-minded, it can only be referred to as an American phenomenon as legions of Parrotheads don their tropical gear and “party with a purpose” from morning to evening in true Buffett fashion. After all, it is five o’clock somewhere, a motto they undoubtedly live by.
Inside the Comcast Center, the venue that Buffett still affectionately refers to as Great Woods, Parrotheads impatiently await the arrival of their King with bated breath and intoxicated sways to the tune of Robert Greenidge’s steel-drummed rendition of the Van Morrison classic, “Brown Eyed Girl.” Direct from the island of St. Somewhere, men in pumpkin orange costumes festooned with lights and wearing oversized top hats with basketball hoops perched atop balance on stilts, pacifying the voracious crowd with aisle entertainment and heightening its suspension of disbelief – a necessary ingredient to enjoyment of the globe-trotting Buffett experience. It is not until the opening riff of “Kinja” – reimagined “St. Somewhere” for the occasion – resounds throughout the venue that the Coral Reefers begin to assemble onstage, followed close behind by a demure Buffett who still appears amazed to witness a packed house. Barefoot and clad in sunshine yellow board shorts, his turquoise t-shirt is emblazoned with a fictionalized St. Somewhere postage stamp, and he is sporting his trademark, glow. His genuine smile is unmistakable evidence of his delight and only serves to make him all the more endearing as it permeates through each heart in the venue – including those of the typically stone-faced security personnel. Buffett’s aura is intriguing, and he radiates an otherworldly charm as he bellows his first lyric of the night: “St. Somewhere’s the name of this island, but you know you can’t get there from here. But you’re in luck because we stuffed it in a truck, and brought it to Mansfield this year… and Boston is now St. Somewhere.” As proven by an animated beach ball following each word on-screen, the way to everyone’s heart is through a sing-a-long. In the first of many occurrences this evening, the Comcast Center erupts into a karaoke bar.
As Buffett aficionados are well aware, “Boat Drinks” was written in February 1979 on a particularly frigid evening in Boston, which led to the desire to fly to St. Somewhere, where it is warm. Tonight, New Englanders are especially thrilled and rightfully so, as we have a stake in the namesake of this tour, and in the title of the forthcoming record. Certainly, this would explain the immediate rise in energy as Buffett launches into the classic but not before reminiscing about the time spent in Derek Sandersen’s bar, and “borrowing” a Boston taxi to get back to his hotel in the twenty-degree weather. Although a story that Parrotheads know well, it is especially significant when shared in our hometown.
As the backdrop behind him shifted from engaging home movies of traveling, to his more recent sailing excursions, to a moving tribute to the city of Boston throughout the Mac McAnally-sung “Back Where I Come From,” Buffett played one fan-favorite after another, including “Come Monday,” “Son of a Son of a Sailor,” Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes,” and “A Pirate Looks at Forty,” in addition to material from the upcoming record. The highlight of the night came about midway through the set, when Buffett and the Coral Reefers formed a half-circle onstage and acoustics were brought out for the exquisite “La Vie Dansante,” followed by witty commentary on Buffett’s career in music journalism throughout “Useless and Important Information,” “Volcano,” and the Crosby, Stills, and Nash “Southern Cross.” The Comcast Center became an intimate space reminiscent of a living room concert – a rare occurrence similar to an episode of VH1’s Storytellers.
To the delight of Parrotheads, the plane touched down in Margaritaville at about quarter to eleven and, by this time, Buffett had been clad in his Boston Strong t-shirt for a good portion of the evening. The communal shaking of salt followed, along with a reimagined final verse in which Buffett reflected humorously on his fall in Australia: “There was lots of discussion about my concussion, / the stitches and bruises that covered my brain, / so I flew to Hawaii for acupuncture and Saki, / a little yoga and some reefer, / and I’m still in the game.” After a brief departure to the chorus of applause, a solo Buffett – the original Coral Reefer Band – returned for “Tin Cup Chalice,” his second encore of the night and an emotional conclusion to an exhilarating adventure. “I wanna go back down and die beside the sea there / with a tin cup for a chalice / Fill it up with good red wine, / and I’ll be chewin’ on a honeysuckle vine,” he sang as the sunset faded out behind him, and the “Songs from St. Somewhere” evening reached its inevitably poignant end.