Jimmy Buffett / Aug. 11, 2009 / Indianapolis

Jimmy Buffett Goes Back To Roots For 'Hotel'

Jimmy Buffett's annual traveling concert / unstopped carnival / tailgating-driven insta-tent city is back on the road. You may be befuddled by this entire escapade, you may wonder what could possibly drive normally average, probably mostly boring people to attach massive, makeshift fins to their SUVs and considerably more ridiculous apparatuses to their bodies, and yet the evidence is irrefutable: You may never find another environment in which so many people are so reliably, viscerally thrilled to hear songs that they are, every year, absolutely assured of hearing.

But such is the draw of this traveling summer salvation show. Now in its 300-and-somethingth year of wandering the country, the caravan stops to jam-pack amphitheaters (this year in the stinky thick of Recession Summer), deliver two-and-a-half hours of bright sunshiney goods and move the whole train to the next station. It's all one big mobile circus of good-natured staples, well-chosen cover songs, alcoholic squishies and an irrationally reliable good time. Barring some sort of catastrophic crash in the coconut-bra manufacturing sector or the blow-up pool market, it remains nearly impossible to look at the crowds (and the receipts) and think of a remotely logical reason to get this show off the road.

Where Buffett goes so does summer; the lawn at Indy's Verizon Wireless Music Center was pre-soaked by 20 minutes of reasonably sobering rain, but by the opening "Star Spangled Banner," furnished by longtime percussionist Robert Greenidge and Hawaiian ukulele wunkerkind Jake Shimabukuro, not only were the skies blue but a sprawling, marvelous rainbow had materialized behind left field. This is merely the latest shred of evidence for devout members of the Church of Buffett, as such disciples believe - and how much of this belief is due to drinkable goodies is really immaterial - that the man brings summer, sunshine and possibly even rainbows wherever he docks. Which is why the packed house on a Tuesday night - Buffett is money in the midwest, naturally - lost their minds to "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere," "Brown Eyed Girl," "Stars on the Water" and "Southern Cross" with a comfortable, well-practiced style.

The majority of Buffett's set is implied - at some point he's going to run out of ways to arrange these songs, mathematically - leaving only a few precious annual slots with which to deliver some special presents or get some work done, which this year involved delivering a sampler of new material drawn presumably from the new disc due in November called "Buffet Hotel" (note to search engines and fans: the album title has one T, in order to confuse you more desperately).

Billboard.com caught Jimmy Buffett at this year's Bonnaroo also.

"I Feel Like Going Surfing In A Hurricane" is a speedy, Ventures-referencing lark, while "Summerzcool" is major-chord throwaway escapism ("What's up with this recession? I refuse to participate"). But the latter ideas were better handled by "A Lot To Drink About," a Steve Goodman-style current-events monologue/"high speed drinking song" that finds Buffett wielding a sharper edge than is evident in that business about the cheeseburgers. ("And those Somalian pirates are counting all the gold while Bush and Cheney ain't around/and all the good lookers seem to be Czech hookers, from Key West to London town.")

Elsewhere, the 30-song set sported two Beatles covers: "Yellow Submarine" and the considerably more WTF "Rocky Raccoon." Buffett gave the semi-obscurity "Manana," the lively kiss-off "Lage Nom Ai" and the lovely Key West-themed "Last Mango in Paris" a nice dusting-off. Meanwhile, "Let Me Love You" was a showcase for Buffett protege Ilo Ferreira, who, as the story goes, was discovered by Buffett, Chris Blackwell and Bill Flanagan during a night out in Cape Verde, South Africa, like you do. Tales notwithstanding, Ferreira is a good pick to put under Buffett's wings. He adds a dose of geographically appropriate legitimacy to a sound that was, not surprisingly, upbeat island-country. It'll be interesting to see what Ferreira brings next year, when Buffett, almost certainly, comes back to port once more.

Here is Jimmy Buffett's set list:

"Star Spangled Banner" (Robert Greenidge and Jake Shimabukuro)
"Lage Nom Ai"
"Stars on the Water"
"It's Five O'Clock Somewhere"
"Conky Tonkin"
"Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes"
"Volcano" (featuring Ilo Ferreira)
"Cheeseburger in Paradise"
"Come Monday"
"Son of a Son of a Sailor"
"Brown Eyed Girl"
"One Particular Harbour"
"A Lot To Drink About" -> "Why Don't We Get Drunk"
"One Love"
"My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink and I Don't Love Jesus"
"Rocky Raccoon"
"Grapefruit/Juicy Fruit"
"Last Mango In Paris"
"Let Me Love You" (Ilo Ferreira)
"I Feel Like Going Surfing In A Hurricane"
"Southern Cross"
"Gypsies in the Palace"
"A Pirate Looks at Forty"
"Margaritaville (lost verse included)"
"Scarlet Begonias"
"Yellow Submarine"
"Tryin' To Reason With Hurricane Season"