After the Austin metro area suffered massive localized flooding on Monday, it was fair to wonder if Jimmy Buffett's last-minute tour rehearsal at Stubb's on Tuesday would even happen. As it happened, though, Tuesday afternoon was a sea change from the day before: Fans streamed into the amphitheater and found it no worse for wear.
Since Buffett usually plays outdoor sheds of around 15,000, C3 Presents instituted a smart policy for the 2,200-capacity show: Each ticket holder had to pick up at will-call and then immediately enter the venue. As a result, the atmosphere was warm and festive on the Stubb's lawn, as an all-ages crowd awaited its frivolous and fearless party leader.
Buffett said the band had decided to leave the night's ticket proceeds in the hands of Austin charities to help with flood recovery.
Buffett wasted no time getting into his show. He walked on at 8 pm sharp, outfitted casually in a purple T-shirt and the brightest yellow shorts ever worn by man. The yacht rocker's band barely fit on the Stubb's stage.
An 11-piece outfit found him flanked by backup singers, a horns section, and seven-time CMA Musician of the Year Mac McAnally as a vocal and guitar foil. The move is a smart one: Buffett has always been more of a songwriter and ringleader than a singer, and the big band helped bring his well-honed odes to escapism into brighter focus.
After opening with hit "License To Chill," Buffett discussed Monday's flooding and mentioned that the band had decided to leave the night's ticket proceeds (likely around $200,000) in the hands of Austin charities to help with flood recovery.
While many arena acts in a small venue might use stage time for set list experimentation, this mostly wasn't the case with Buffett. Outside of a handful of album cuts like "Blue Guitar" and "Off to See the Lizard," he and the band seemed content to simply knock the rust off and — for the most part — play the "yellow album
" hits that have made the man a fortune. This is apparently not the plan for the summer tour. During some stage banter, he mentioned that the group will play a larger 32-song, three-hour set sprinkled with rarities on the regular tour dates.
Buffett's familiarity with Austin and the city's music fans was evident throughout the set. He mentioned first coming to town at the behest of longtime friend Jerry Jeff Walker and asked who among the crowd had attended any of his appearances around town in the 1970s. He also confirmed the legend that "Margaritaville" was partially written in Austin, and Buffett ran out a cover of the Lyle Lovett classic, "If I Had a Boat" late in the set.
As one would expect, the audience sing-alongs were constant, and the veteran crowd knew the preferred Parrothead cover songs, chief among them the Crosby, Stills and Nash favorite, "Southern Cross."
As the show wound down at 9:45 pm (just prior to the forecast of another big storm), Buffett ended the gig by himself with an acoustic guitar. His solo rendition of 1974's "Tin Cup Chalice" covered the familiar Buffett territory of islands, beer, boats and travel and sent the crowd home in a pleasant tropical haze.
Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefers play The Woodlands on Thursday, May 28 and Frisco on Saturday, May 30. Tickets are available via Live Nation.