Review/Photos: Remember fun? Jimmy Buffett continues comeback concerts in Delray Beach Monday-Tuesday
In his first concert in 14 months, trop-rock troubadour Jimmy Buffett on Thursday night led a sold-out Delray Beach audience on a transformative journey back in time. It was Margaritaville, circa 2019. And fun ruled.
In a 100-minute, 21-song set leavened by gratitude, Key West stories and tequila, Buffett played benevolent tour guide to nearly 900 pod-enclosed Parrotheads eager to take the trip they clearly spent time dressing for.
The show was the first of four outdoor concerts on Old School Square, the rest taking place Friday, Monday and Tuesday, May 14, 17-18. All of the more than 3,500 seats for the four shows are sold out.
On a day when the CDC recommended a major rollback on mask-wearing for the vaccinated, Buffett took several opportunities on Thursday for good-natured venting about the pandemic and how much he has missed playing for an audience.
“Hopefully, we’re on the other side of this. For the first time in human history, fun was stopped. We’re back,” he said.
To double-down on his good-times-ahead attitude, Buffett confirmed that plans for a “full tour” are in the works.
“I’m hearing August, but we’ll keep you posted,” he said through a wave of applause.
Arriving onstage around 8:30 p.m., to a standing ovation that never fully disappeared, Buffett and the “fully vaccinated old farts” in the Coral Reefer Band hit the ground running with fan favorite “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes,” the luscious steel-drum intro from Robert Greenidge flowing over the crowd in a warm wave.
Buffett’s bag of songs seems bottomless but if his fans were especially eager for the nostalgia of the singalong hits, he seemed to feel the same way.
Aided as always by supremely talented singer-guitarist and foil Mac McAnally, Buffett offered spirited versions of “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” “Volcano,” “Fins” and “Margaritaville.”
“I know you’re all penned up out there, but you can still dance,” Buffett said before the band jumped into “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” The result was more enthusiastic arm waving than actual dancing, but we’ll get there someday.
“Son of a Son of a Sailor” was given a poignant reading, with Buffett on 12-string guitar, as did the gentle singalong “A Pirate Looks at 40” and “Come Monday,” a duet with guest country singer Caroline Jones.
McAnally took over during Buffett’s “tequila break” with a brilliant version of the intricate instrumental “Little Martha,” written by Duane Allman for two guitars, as he pointed out. McAnally also performed his engaging portrait of small-town life, “Back Where I Come From.”
Buffett brought out a few more obscure songs beloved by Parrotheads, including “The Wino and I Know,” “Migration” (dedicated to Jerry Jeff Walker), jaunty “Pencil Thin Mustache,” the life-affirming “Last Mango in Paris” and his sunny 1994 ode to fatherhood, “Delaney Talks to Statues.”
A set of Key West songs featured his lonely, country-spiked 1976 ballad “Woman Goin’ Crazy on Caroline Street” and 1974′s “Tin Cup Chalice,” which included the tale of his Duval Street battle for tourist dollars with street performer Guy Laliberté and his trained cats. Laliberté would go on to create Cirque du Soleil.
Buffett performed a three-song encore, with the upbeat “Fins” sandwiched between the nostalgic regret of “One Particular Harbor” and the more hopeful closer, “Floridays.” On the latter, Buffett ended the night alone onstage, singing “I’m back to livin’ Floridays / Blue skies and ultra-violet rays / Lookin’ for better days.”
If you’re headed to one of Buffett’s next three shows, you’ll find that Delray Beach is firmly in the grip of Jimmy mania, with hundreds of Parrotheads parading through downtown in garish shirts and headwear before the shows.
At Tin Roof Thursday night, local rock band Spider Cherry tried a little counterprogramming with covers of the Bee Gees and Bon Jovi in front of a crowd of young Parrotheads in floral shirts and kooky sunglasses.
“There is a buzz,” said Delray Beach resident Claudia Amore, seated under the trees for a pre-show dinner at Dada restaurant, across the street from Old School Square.
Amore, 48, was with her husband, Nate Okai; her mother, Margaret, who was celebrating her 75th birthday; and Margaret’s friend Migdalia Roman. Each of their necks was encircled in a colorful, look-at-me lei. Amore was the only one who had seen a Buffett concert before.
Amore said the buzz in town was mixed with some lingering disbelief that an artist of Buffett’s stature would actually perform on Old School Square.
“People are still surprised. They still think it’s going to be a cover band,” Amore said.
Okai said they hoped the evening would bring “something different, after last year. Energy and happiness, a fun vibe and just living and enjoying life.”
Across the street at the Space of Mind schoolhouse, founder Ali Kaufman was hosting a kid-friendly “Welcome Jimmy” picnic with cheeseburgers, margaritas, a Jimmy Buffett soundtrack and a giant pirate ship, made by one of her “imagineering” staffers, Adrian St. Cyr.
“We’re just big fans of what Delray is doing right now. We’re celebrating what this town is putting together,” Kaufman said.
Jonathan and Ashley Johnson drove seven hours from Columbia, S.C., for the show that would be their sixth Buffett concert. They also attended Buffett’s last pre-pandemic show in Las Vegas in 2019.
Dressed in bold tropical shirts — Ashley pairing hers with earrings and sandals that seemed plucked from a Buffett lyric — the couple said Buffett represents a joyful escapism.
“The stuff he sings about just sort of hits home,” said Jonathan, 38.
Jimmy Buffett With the Coral Reefer Friends perform 8 p.m. May 14, 17-18 at the Pavilion at Old School Square, 51 N Swinton Ave., Delray Beach. Tickets are sold out. Call 561-243-7922 or visit OldSchoolSquare.org.
Staff writer Ben Crandell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.