Parrotheads Gone Wild

Jimmy Buffett. At the Santa Barbara Bowl, Thursday, October 19.

Reviewed by Felicia M. Tomasko

Parrotheads are a serious bunch: they’re in their seats at 7 p.m., feathers erect with anticipation. Chatting is kept to a minimum, but cheering, singing along, and exuberantly making shark fins with hands are all fair game, as is sipping beer between the choruses in “Margaritaville.” And Buffett is continually appreciative: “I’m just glad you still like me,” he marveled before dipping into “Juicy Fruit.”

This may figure in Buffett’s success; he doesn’t seem to take his audience for granted. “You’re a crazy group, Parrotheads, and I’m thankful for it,” he said, acting as though it were his own private party, and he wanted all of his guests to have a good time. He encouraged this with his clever banter, by not taking himself too seriously, and by poking fun at his recent lyrical blunder on the Today Show and vitamin bust in France.

His barefoot exuberance on a set festooned with surfboards and an ocean backdrop evoked the joy of an endless summer, even after nearly 40 years of touring. In each song, his band was on fire with Caribbean rhythms set by the steel drums and slide and pedal steel guitars. While he delivered all the sing-along faves — including “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” “Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw,” and “Come Monday” — he dipped into tracks from his recent album, Take the Weather with You, as well, announcing that his performance of “Elvis Presley Blues” was the song’s concert debut.

The evening’s highlights featured local talents David Crosby and Jack Johnson on stage to sing “Son of a Son of a Sailor” to a raucous crowd. Crosby later joined Buffett again to sing backup on “Southern Cross.” And during the final encore, Buffett and Johnson traded verses for “A Pirate Looks at 40,” during which Johnson changed a line to sing “I’m an under-40 victim of fate.” As we filed out of our seats at the end of the night I overheard a Parrothead fittingly say: “That wasn’t a concert; it was a party. Thanks, Jimmy Buffett, for coming to my party.”

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