Jimmy Buffett’s nautical-themed concert at the Sprint Center in Kansas City took about 15,000 giddy passengers on a two-hour pleasure cruise on Saturday.
During the opening night of his "Son of a Son of a Sailor" tour, Buffett, 71, proudly proclaimed that “it’s actually true — I am the son of a son of a sailor.”
The added assurance wasn't necessary. The storied singer-songwriter is beloved for his shaggy-dog stories, such as the woozy 1977 smash-hit “Margaritaville.”
His devotees are less like fans than members of a colorful cult of gregarious fun-lovers. Many enthusiasts in Saturday’s audience wore wacky costumes or Hawaiian shirts with leis.
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Those fans are eager to buy whatever their hero is selling, a trait that has made Buffett a branding juggernaut and a serial entrepreneur.
One of his latest ventures is a pair of retirement communities named Latitude Margaritaville. During the mandatory rendition of “Margaritaville,” video footage promoting his current Broadway musical “Escape to Margaritaville” was displayed on an enormous screen behind the stage.
Most of the images that flashed behind the barefoot Buffett and his 11-piece Coral Reefer Band depicted tropical paradises, boat schematics and references to the revelry that causes his concerts to resemble Fat Tuesday, Halloween and New Year’s Eve celebrations rolled up together into wild beach-themed parties.
Exuberant readings of escapist hits like the debauched “It's Five O'Clock Somewhere,” the ravenous “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” the amusing reverie of “The Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful” and the barstool philosophy of “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” were received with rapturous enthusiasm.
Yet the audience equally appreciated the subtler material.
Buffett cited Mark Twain as an inspiration before performing the agonizing “A Pirate Looks at Forty.” Perhaps sensing that the atmosphere became uncharacteristically grim after singing the lyric “I feel like I've drowned,” Buffett ad-libbed “but I won’t wear a frown.”
Caroline Jones, a country-oriented artist who demonstrated formidable blues chops in a brief opening set, added additional depth to the forlorn ballad “Coast of Marseilles” in an enchanting duet.
The refreshed set list touched on all but two songs from the 1978 album “Son of a Son of a Sailor.” Only “Cowboy in the Jungle” fell flat.
An unusual array of cover songs ranged from inspired (the Beach Boys’ “Sail On, Sailor”) to dull (Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl”).
Buffett, a trustworthy navigator, mostly circumvented choppy waters. The maiden voyage of his "Son of a Son of a Sailor" tour made for a memorable excursion.
Set list: Livingston Saturday Night; The Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful; Tampico Trauma; Boat Drinks; Come Monday; Trip Around the Sun; It's Five O'Clock Somewhere; Sail On, Sailor; Volcano; Cowboy in the Jungle; Son of a Son of a Sailor; Cheeseburger in Paradise; steel drum feature; Grapefruit-Juicy Fruit/Mañana/Fool Button/Piece of Work medley; Coast of Marseilles; Fins; Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes; A Pirate Looks at Forty; Back Where I Come From; Margaritaville; Southern Cross; One Particular Harbour; Brown Eyed Girl; Love and Luck; One Love