WANTAGH, NY—It was like Holy Communion at the Church Of Buffett at Jones Beach, where Jimmy And The Coral Reefers played their annual pre-Labor Day weekend show. The parking lot scene was slightly reminiscent of the good ole Grateful Dead days, albeit a portly, boozier and less psychedelic version of it, as live bands played on the steamy concrete and grown men dressed in goofy hats, pirate attire and hula skirts while coconut brassieres shook and shimmied as they double fisted boat drinks.
Buffett and band offered up the goodies at a solid 26-song, two-hour plus show as they blasted a jukebox of bong hits, party anthems and more. Combining Southern fried boogie woogie, some Nashville sheen and spicy, mango-fied steel drums of the Caribbean to the rhythms of rock and roll, Buffett’s motley mix makes for a fine tasting gumbo. At Jones Beach, the band combined all into an intoxicatingly delicious stew as Jimmy stood center stage, grinning like a kid caught with his hand in the musical cookie jar.
Their infectious hooks and tales of beaches, bars and boats ran like stories from an old salty dog holding court at a smelly juke joint. Bandmates Mike Utley and Mac McAnally played Ed McMahon to Buffett’s Johnny Carson as they countered one-liners to Jimmy’s tales from “Margaritaville.” The rest of the band, including Peter Mayer on guitars and some backup vocalists, were a dynamically playful unit that let the songs ring to a subliminally, funkified backbeat that had everyone on their feet and shaking their tails.
The band’s set went from Songs You Know By Heart to some new ones, and included an acoustic mini-set that ended in a blowout of sing-alongs. Opening with “One Particular Harbor,” things got bouncy and incredibly tropical as the salty air blew in from nearby Zach’s Bay. On Zac Brown’s “Knee Deep,” guitarist Mayer’s countrified twang took us back to the beach, after which Buffett commented, “I see hula skirts on lots of men out there—very metrosexual!”
Things got autobiographical on “Margaritaville” as Buffett threw in a few verses on his accidental falling off stage in Australia last year that landed him in a hospital and recovery with “some yoga and reefer that put me back in the game!” “Piece Of Work,” “Pencil Thin Mustache” and “Southern Cross” were delivered front porch style, unplugged and dedicated to Mayberry R.F.D. fingerpicker Andy Griffith that trumpeter John Lovell added some saucy New Orleans licks to.
Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” combined the samba and swing of a big band on a banana boat ride to the tropics. “Bama Breeze,” “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” (with Mac McAnally filling in for Alan Jackson’s parts) and “Fins” closed the set with everyone joining in on the “Fins” dance. “Lovely Cruise,” by the original lone reefer, Mr. Jimmy Buffett, was the closer that left everyone blissfully wasted away again and “searching for that lost shaker of salt.”