Front Row Focus | Concert Review: Jimmy Buffett (April 23, 2016)

Concert Review: Jimmy Buffett (April 23, 2016)

May 04, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

ARTIST:  Jimmy Buffett

VENUE:  PNC Music Pavilion - Charlotte, NC

DATE:  April 23, 2016

Review & Photos By: David Simchock

Jimmy Buffett 2016-04-23 (Charlotte, NC)Jimmy Buffett 2016-04-23 (Charlotte, NC)© Copyright David J. Simchock It's been a long time coming. Finally, on this 80-degree summer-like April evening, a big tick was made on my personal concert bucket list. After years and years of my own beach-bar karaoke-style renditions of Margaritaville dating back to my mid-1980s days on the Jersey Shore, the opportunity presented itself to experience a live Jimmy Buffett performance. History was made on April 23rd, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina, where I got to celebrate this long-awaited milestone with my partner, Beth, and thousands upon thousands of  real-life Parrotheads who flocked to the PNC Music Pavilion with a tequilla-fueled frenzy that one has grown to expect from fans of this iconic singer-songwriter. This wasn't just a concert. This was a beach party in the middle of North Carolina.

And, what a show it was, living up to all expectations, if not exceeding them in many ways. Sure, I anticipated a huge, zealous, colorful crowd of die-hard fans. But, what I didn't really prepare myself for was how energetic and youthful this pirate-looking-at-70 would be for a solid two-hour show, filled with just about every sing-along hit he ever recorded, along with a few notable covers thrown in. Jimmy Buffett is still the real deal, as he showed no signs of "mailing it in" (or, flying it in), treating his impassioned fans to a set list of hits, touring tales, and lots of genuine positivity.

Though Buffett's appearance these days resembles more a retired dentist on a Caribbean cruise than it does a "gulf and western" rock star who has been entertaining folks with his beach-friendly lyrics for 50 years, his passion for performing hasn't waned a bit over the past half-century. In fact, if I were to compare the quality of this evening's music to the the 1999 live album, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, that we listened to on the drive from Asheville to Charlotte, I'd have to say that Buffett has taken it up a couple of notches. Not only that, but he seemed to be having the time of his life, as if it was just yesterday that he went out on the road, ready to uplift the planet with his tales of travel, sailing, and over-indulgence of rum.

Jimmy Buffett 2016-04-23 (Charlotte, NC)Jimmy Buffett 2016-04-23 (Charlotte, NC)© Copyright David J. Simchock Apart from a few fans who looked worse for wear before they even made it into the arena, the only over-indulgence we witnessed from Buffett was his immense joyfulness and gratitude for being where he was in the moment, and for sharing such sincere happiness with his family of fans. Despite the tour being titled Workin' and Playin', it hardly seemed like work for the perpetually-smiling bare-footed singer as he took center-stage donning shorts and a tee shirt, flanked by 11 band members and a huge jumbotron screen as a backdrop to the stage. 

I am a fan, but I would hardly consider myself a full-fledged card-carrying Parrothead, so the first four or five songs of the evening weren't all that familiar, and the show seemed to get off to a slow-ish start for me. Then, as Buffett and his band eased into "Come Monday", followed by another personal favorite, "Son Of A Son Of A Sailor", it was time join the rest of the crowd in a stand-for-the-duration sing-song that would carry us all through the evening. From there on out, Buffett belted out a string of songs I knew by heart, including "Volcano", "Cheeseburger In Paradise" and, of course, his signature mega-hit, "Margaritaville".

Perhaps the song that inspired the greatest audience participation was "Fins", as thousands of Parrothead faithful swung their "fins to the left" then their "fins to the right", as a sea of human sharks made it clear that the PNC Music Pavilion was offering the only musical bait in town. Other notable selections included "License To Chill", "One Particular Harbor", an NC dedication, "Coast Of Carolina", and a family-friendly "Why Don't We Get Drunk/Books". The fun but profound "Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes" was saved for the encore, rounding off every Buffett hit that I'm aware of, apart from "Pencil Thin Mustache" which was absent from tonight's set list.
Jimmy Buffett 2016-04-23 (Charlotte, NC)Jimmy Buffett 2016-04-23 (Charlotte, NC)© Copyright David J. Simchock
There was no shortage of covers woven into the show, including long-standing Buffett staples, "Southern Cross" (Crosby, Stills & Nash), "Brown-eyed Girl (Van Morrison), and "Scarlet Begonias" (Grateful Dead). The band also paid their respects to recent fallen stars, playing "Silver Wings", (Merle Haggard), and closing out the encore set with a tribute to Prince with a very moving rendition of "Purple Rain".

As the crowd emptied the amphitheater into the sprawling parking lot and we hiked back to my car, I couldn't help but feel good about my first live Jimmy Buffett experience. In fact, I couldn't help but feel good about life. Through his songs, his story-telling, and his infectious laughter, this happy-go-lucky beach-bum of a musician exemplifies what it means to live life to its fullest. He's been livin' the dream for about five decades, and doesn't appear to be letting up any time soon. Sure, his tour schedule is a bit lighter these days, but the man needs some time for his entrepreneurial activities, not to mention his writing, acting and charity work. Though I may no longer need to cross Jimmy Buffett off of my ever-expanding concert bucket list, that doesn't mean that I'm one-and-done with seeing him perform. I will, however, be adding him to my "people I'd like to fish with" bucket list. I wonder how long it will take to cross that one off?

Author's note... Though Front Row Focus prides itself on our high-quality photo galleries that always accompany our gig reviews, unfortunately, I was not issued a photo pass for this show, so my Jimmy Buffett photo gallery is very limited, including only three performance shots that were captured from my seat with my point-and-shoot camera. Maybe next time I'll be able to grab a few choice photos from the pit!

Jimmy Buffett 2016-04-23 (Charlotte, NC)Jimmy Buffett 2016-04-23 (Charlotte, NC)© Copyright David J. Simchock




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