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With Jimmy Buffett, the fun starts in the parking lot

Jones Beach, Wantagh, N.Y., August 26, 2009

Reviewed by Kelly Salonica

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Pulling into the parking lot was almost as entertaining as watching Jimmy Buffett on stage...if you weren't interested in finding a spot right away that is. It's no shocker that tailgate parties were in full swing by noon for the Five O'Clock Somewhere crowd, but the way they unfolded was a sight.

Next to just about every car was a parking spot occupied by picnic tables, coolers, lawn chairs, hammocks and at least one palm tree (not kidding!). Bikini-clad rollerbladers coasted down lanes and flower-shirted toddlers wobbled along while barbecues were fired up, cases of beer were hoisted from one party to the next, and that irritating noise that sounded like a motorcycle revving up every couple of minutes turned out to be a generator for the Margarita blender - you can't make this stuff up, well you can if you have one of these gizmos! This was an anything-goes day-into-night shindig and the only ground rule was to have fun...Buffett style.

There's nothing like being in your element and the beach is undeniably that for Buffett. This year's SummerZcool tour, which started in April and ends in November, kicked off with the pre-show wild guys flinging souvenirs into the audience using themselves as an elaborate slingshot to the Caribbean-inspired tune of Hot Hot Hot, but the Caribbean was only one local visited this night. Buffett got swampy in Louisiana with Rodney Crowell's Stars On The Water, then headed to Nashville for a Five O'Clock Somewhere duet with Coral Reefer and songwriter Mac McAnally.

It was a southbound push in Manana, to Key West with Conky Tonkin' and in case someone missed the compass setting, Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes pointed them in the right direction. If you weren't on your feet by now (and who wasn't?) this song got you there. In his signature light-blue T-shirt and island shorts, a barefoot and buff Buffett gloried in being on the outdoor stage, decorated with banana and coconut trees, right on the water.

The oldies were still the goodies here as Volcano pumped more energy into the mix. The visual effects were priceless as the big screens held images of a live volcano, and smoke flowed over the floor of the stage while Buffett chanted "Lava me now or Lava me not." Video footage of the day's tail-gate parties popped up on the screens showcasing some of the more attention-grabbing highlights. You can tell it gives the man great pleasure to know he's the inspiration for such shenanigans.

Buffett handed over the mic during fav Cheeseburger In Paradise as the audience enthusiastically sang over him, and he personalized Come Monday with "It's so good to be back in Sag Harbor again!" It would be redundant to say the crowd went wild since they did so repeatedly. As a segue into Brown Eyed Girl, Buffett gave us his wish, "I want to have summer last on Long Island until Nov. 11 if that's okay." The quintessential concert song, One Particular Harbour, guaranteed a summer state of mind and no Buffett evening would be complete without it. Singing along with no clue as to what the Tahitian lyrics meant (IA ORA TE NATURA, MEA AROFA TEIE AO NEI) the fans totally got the feeling behind them. Talk about being in sync!

A high-speed drinking song took several humorous shots at the economy with lines like "there goes the yacht, there goes the house but you still got your wife," while Buffett conceded that "we got a lot to drink about!" So of course he predictably followed up with Why Don't We Get Drunk before letting us out for "Recess" (a short intermission).

As Bob Marley's One Love/People Get Ready piped through the speakers to signal Buffett's return, his voice took over the tune, announcing "recess is over." Picking up where he left off, Buffett rolled right into My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink And I Don't Love Jesus. After a night of drinking, this song needed no explanation.

Clear skies reigned over the first half of the show and then, well, it rained...on cue no less. Buffett was just going into Weather With You and feeling quite pleased with himself when he announced "The weather's here!" He kept it going as he commented on the "great waves we had on the Island last week" and sang about surfing in a hurricane (his first and only surfing song). When Buffett was done with the weather songs, the rain went with them, ending as abruptly as it started. Either the man has more power than the Weather Channel, or he's psychic!

Buffett's next set turned out to be a quiz of sorts. For Pirate Looks At Forty, he asked "Can I get in trouble in Montauk?" and admitted "It's a pirate's life for me!" Margaritaville suggested we go down Route 27 (Montauk Highway) and Fins had the land sharks circling while trying to figure out left from right. Buffett then declared "SummerZcool, you graduated!" Coming down to the right side of the stage he greeted fans, signed autographs and posed for photos before making his exit.

An encore was expected, two were demanded following two standing ovations. We Are The People Our Parents Warned Us About addressed the mood. "They warned me about you people," Buffett stated. He then took us under with Yellow Submarine. "Thank you for coming for 40-something years filled with inspiration and friendship! This is where it stared out at the Bottom Line in Manhattan," he shared and ended with the poignant He Went To Paris.

Buffett played for 2 1/2 hours, taking only a 10-minute break. By the time all was said (or sung) and done, you knew life was good. How many performers can give you something as priceless as that for the price of a ticket?!