I want to share our experience this past weekend at the Jimmy Buffett concert. Maybe, the better word for that would be carnival, because his shows draw a crowd together that you’re not going to find anywhere else. The ages of concert-goers ranged from the late teens to somewhere in the 60s and 70s. It was truly a gathering of generations. And, many of those generational members donned the appropriate gear of Parrothead (as Buffet’s fans are affectionately known). This gear included Hawaiian shirts, leis, grass skirts, and coconut bras. The men were as prone to wear any or all of this stuff as the women. If you’re a Parrothead, you already know this, though.
An additional feature of this concert was the opening act, Robert Earl Keen. Just having an opening act is unique for Buffett, but having Texas’s own Robert Earl Keen was a real treat, especially for me as he is one of my favorite singer/songwriters. I’ve been a fan of REK for about ten years now and have seen him at least three times before this one. The only difference in the past performances is that at those, he was the headliner, two of those being daylong concerts with many other Texas singer/songwriters, and the last time being a REK concert at the Historic 1892 Opera House in Galveston.
Never had I ever thought that Robert Earl would be an opening act. However, this was a great gathering for REK to put his music out to a whole bunch of music fans that would not usually otherwise hear him. Being the venue for this show was Minute Maid Park, where the Houston Astros play, gave REK the opportunity to share his down home musical philosophy with a whole lot more music fans than he might have ever had before him at any given time. Estimates of the gate said that attendance was about 40,000.
Our seats were on the floor, as were more than 8,000 of our closest friends. It was all assigned seating and the field of Minute Maid had an elevated flooring system that let us all get out there and also keep the field intact for the ‘Stros when they return for their next game.
The acoustics of a ball field are different than the standard concert hall. We had to adjust our listening, if that makes any sense. It was sort of like a filtering we had to adjust to, to compensate for the echo bouncing off the sides of the stadium. I had never been to the park, so I had no idea what to expect acoustically. When REK promptly took the stage at 7:30, though, it became clear that I had to tweak my listening.
While REK has a catalog of several albums behind him, including four live albums, and a fan base that is as loyal as a hunter’s favorite hound, he still lacks name recognition by many music fans. That’s a real shame, as he’s a fine musician and a great showman who loves to perform for these fans. The shortened stage time meant that he had to pick his songs carefully so he could present his best to this large mass of potential new fan base. For the REK faithful, though, it meant they got to hear choice live cuts of some of their favorite REK tunes.
He first jumped out with 1998’s Feeling good again, and quickly transitioned into the similarly rythmed Gringo Honeymoon. He then burned through songs spanning different periods of his career including Mr. Wolf and Mamabear, Merry Christmas from the Family, Corpus Christi Bay, and Amarillo Highway. Of course, as any die-hard REK fan knows, he finished with a fine presentation of his jamming, storytelling tune The Road Goes on Forever.
All in all, those who were REK fans before the night just got enough to hunger for more. For the uninitiated, though, they got a good sampling of what his regular shows give his fans. There are some concerts when I can take or leave the opening acts, but this one was a must see for me. And, I’m glad I was there for it! Like REK said when he led into Merry Christmas, “The next song is a slow song that we normally don’t play this time of year, but we usually don’t play at a ballpark in front of 40,000 people.” Good choice of both words and song, Robert Earl!
As for Mr. Buffett, I’ve been to one of his shows once before, about 11 years ago. It was at a smaller venue, the Starplex Amphitheater in Dallas. Because of that, I had some idea about what a circus-like atmosphere the show can be. I had told Mrs. OGV and our friends Susan and John about the festivities that surround the show. I think my description was a good start, but still fell a little short in grasping the festive atmosphere that is a Jimmy Buffett show.
It was a special night for Houston Buffett fans. We haven’t had one of his concerts in the Bayou City in several years and he made up for it in grand style. We were the opening city of his Bama Breeze tour. (Bama Breeze is the country-tinged lead-off song on his latest album, Take the Weather With You.)
He started off the show with a nod to another Texas musical gem, Willie Nelson’s On the Road. He then hit all of his fan favoritesmaking sure to interact with his fans between songs. He played Fins early as well as Volcano, amid many other faves.
I have one gripe about his show that bugged me. During the second half of his show, which was presented without his usual mid-show intermission, he threw out a string of several new songs from the latest album. In a string of about six songs, there was only one that I recognized in the middle of it. I believe it would have been a better presentation to intersperse the new songs throughout the show instead of having a big chunk right together.
Then again, I’m just a fan, what do I know about the music business? He’s probably got mega-honcho types on staff who analyze this stuff and they’ve figured this is the best way to present new music that’s unfamiliar to those who don’t have the new album. After all, this is a tour promoting the new album, so he needs to sing a good selection of the new stuff.
Anyhow, following the slew of new material, he followed up with several more of his signature songs. I knew that the show wasn’t over before he played what is probably his best-known song Margaritaville. Once it played, though, I knew that the end could come at any time. And, so it did.
Like at any other concert, once Jimmy left the stage, the crowd kept clapping, calling for an encore. Like at any other concert, he gave them one. He came back out and played three more songs, leading off with his tropical version of the CSN song Southern Star. As that song finished, we made our way up the many steps from the floor. As I told Mrs. OGV, if he plays two more songs, we can be up the stairs and at the door exit before the main crowd converges on the stairway. He gave me what I needed and it was perfect timing.
I was at physical therapy yesterday and talked about the Buffett concert with John, my therapist. John is about 30-ish and had been a student of my brother in law several years ago back when he coached at the junior high level. John said he didn’t go to the show, but his father did. Ohmygosh! I think that’s another thing that is typical of Parrotheads, we’re an aging bunch.
Still, it was an event not to be missed. Like Mrs. OGV said, it was one of the best concerts we’ve been to. That about sums it up.
Labels: Concerts, Jimmy Buffett, Music, Robert Earl Keen