Live Shot of Jimmy Buffet at the Moody Theater

Jimmy Buffet at the Moody Theater, 5.30.12
Jimmy Buffet at the Moody Theater, 5.30.12 (by Gary Miller)

Tuesday night, Tune-Yards’ Austin City Limits taping redefined “tribal” with a self-sampled monster beat and the free jazz accents of two saxophonists. Her entourage hadn’t left the building when Jimmy Buffet’s crew loaded into the Moody Theater. On Wednesday, his sold-out house made the whole Grateful Dead phenomenon look like a passing fad.

Running rivers of pale yellow margaritas – Buffet’s own recipe – weren’t as crippling as knee surgery, but only the Hawaiian shirts, island garb, and parrot-phernalia of his bird-loving crowd clocked first-timers harder.

There were more shark hats and cheeseburger head ware than literal “Parrotheads,” yet Buffet’s so-called fan nation lacked only parrot poop on its collective collar for more worshipful authenticity. A higher tax bracket may well define the singer-songwriter-best-selling-author-franchise-restaurateur’s legion of followers, but musical communion doesn’t come any more genuine.

Buster Poindexter getting “Hot, Hot, Hot” on the P.A. introduced the Coral Reefer Band, 11 members strong as anchored by three percussionists – drums, steel drums, and congas. Buffett, 65 and born on Christmas, followed his big screen entrance carousing underwater with mermaids by bounding onstage last, kicking off his flip-flops, and launching greatest hit “One Particular Harbor.” Tropical projections throughout the two-hour-and-20-minute set, from the Left Coast to the Florida Keys, provided a visual soundtrack to Buffett’s airy calling cards: “Son of a Son of a Sailor,” “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes,” “Volcano,” “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” “A Pirate Looks at 40.”

“I was lucky to discover Austin when Jerry Jeff [Walker] moved to Key West,” grinned Buffett in an evening-long tribute to the city beginning his Lounging at the Lagoon tour. “A big surprise in a little package,” he called the kick-off, referring to the nearly 3,000-seat Moody being one of the smallest venues on the itinerary, but of course that tagline's readymade for our town. North Austin, South Austin, Barton Springs – he knew our longitude as well as latitude.

“Come Monday” followed with another in a stream of effortless melodies, the type moving the Southwestern song art of Jerry Jeff Walker, Michael Nesmith, and Don Henley toward the Caribbean. Buffett’s brief turn at the ukulele underscored simple songcraft made indelible by his infectious party time bonhomie. No coincidence his partnering with Alan Jackson took “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere” – another neon highlight last night – to No. 1 on the country music charts. Country music is bedrock songwriting and in Buffet’s fire pit singalongs resides just enough Gene Autry to help explain his massive popularity.

Running offstage briefly at the hour mark, Buffett returned with a semi-unplugged interlude featuring him and some of his sidemen on National Steel guitars. “Pencil Thin Mustache” became a New Orleans rag and Crosby, Stills & Nash’s “Southern Cross” went anthemic. “Margaritaville” hit at the 90-minute mark, but Buffett’s “Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw” proved the more raucous showstopper despite late challenge by a cover of Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long.” Van Morrison’s “Brown-Eyed Girl” as the final encore only ensured more hurt the next day.

Bloody Mary me, por favor.

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Jimmy Buffett, Tune-Yards, Jerry Jeff Walker, Michael Nesmith, Don Henley, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Lionel Richie, Alan Jackson, Gene Autry, Grateful Dead

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