Fans waited more than a decade for a live performance of “Margaritaville,” “A Pirate Looks at Forty,” “Come Monday,” “Fins,” “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and his other signature songs. Buffett, now 65, and his 12-member band, the Coral Reefers, hadn’t played in Birmingham since November 2001.
The arena was packed with about 14,000 fans or more aptly named “parrot heads” many of them decked out in parrot head hats, shark-fin visors, Hawaiian shirts, grass skirts and other tropical garb. Ideal for people-watching especially a first timer to a Buffet concert. I was certainly underdressed.
Buffett set a congenial tone at when he strolled on stage to introduce the opening act decked out barefooted in a T-shirt and swimming trunks. “Sweet home Alabama!” he proclaimed. he was clearly excited and ready to celebrate his strong ties to the state. He went to Catholic School in Mobile and actually one of my old professors at Spring Hill College there taught him to play…ironically a Jesuit priest.
He recalled his past in Mobile, inserted Birmingham into various song lyrics, praised the state’s football champs (including my alma mater, Auburn) and generally acted like a proud homeboy. Photos of Alabama were part of the stage design, displayed on a huge screen behind the performers.
Even his playlist, nearly 30 numbers strong, clearly was made for the occasion. It included “Bama Breeze,” “Pascagoula Run,” “Back Where I Come From,” “Stars Fell on Alabama,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Birmingham” and “Southern Cross.”
Buffett delivered familiar song introductions with a wink and a grin. That upped the audience’s excitement, as listeners anticipated the first notes of “Jamaica Mistaica,” “Volcano” or “Son of a Son of a Sailor.”
He is no Sinatra but he sounded just like I remembered back in his hey day. Today I have a renewed appreciation for Jimmy Buffet and his crazy fans.