Buffett offers up end-of-summer treat
Reprinted from late editions of yesterday's Globe.
Labor Day traditionally signals the end of summer, but for many, the season's not officially underway until Jimmy Buffett rolls into town. For them, Sunday's show at Gillette Stadium must have made for a particularly brief vacation window.
But urgency has never been on the menu in Margaritaville, and the easiest-going man in show business offered up a party relaxed and carefree enough that nobody realized that this left only one day before the sun and fun came to an end.
Then again, as Buffett helpfully pointed out, most of the crowd did not have to go to work in the morning, and the sold-out audience was determined to squeeze in as much merriment as it could in what time it had.
When Buffett declared of the beachfront Bama Breeze Saloon stage set "This bar only exists in your mind," the man who perfectly embodies one specific strain of boomer dreams seemed to encapsulate his entire appeal.
To a large extent, it was Buffett's earlier material (like "Son of a Son of a Sailor," "Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude" and "Boat Drinks," which he marveled at performing solo acoustic in front of 60,000 people) that felt the most substantial.
Newer songs such as "Everybody's on the Phone" and the Joe Walsh-y "License to Chill," which came after he became a brand name and a lifestyle shorthand, sounded like the products of Buffett writing to his own legend.
But Buffett's choices of cover songs were reasonably intriguing, ranging from favorites like Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl" and Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days," to bolder selections from Gillian Welch and Crowded House. The stage full of musicians - up to 15 people at once - was kept at such a pitch that subtlety was sacrificed for impact.
But good parties aren't ever particularly subtle, and if there's one thing that Buffett knows, it's a party.
Reggae legend Toots Hibbert and the Maytals opened with a set that spanned far more than just the island rhythms of "Pressure Drop" and a Jamaicafied "Take Me Home, Country Roads."
Gospel, funk, and Santana-style Latin rock grooves abounded, but with his husky baritone and occasional loose-limbed dancing, Hibbert mostly came across as an old-school soul man.