In the Buffett Zone, it's Party Time

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Say what you will about your parents, or about old Southern folks who get liquored up and dance like bobbleheads with leis wrapped ‘round their swiney, sunburnt necks at the drop of a stick on a tin drum: the sound of Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band is as singular, precious and deep as a treasure chest full of doubloons spilt across the white ocean floor.

The legendary Buffett, with his twinkly pirate's eyes and endearingly parrot-like features, re-graced the Bay Area on Tuesday night, after regretfully canceling out of his choicer fair-weather venues last October when ill weather of a different sort fell upon his mother. One would have feared that the rescheduled locale of the HP Pavilion of San Jose would swallow Jimmy's beachside manner, but when he hopped barefoot aboard the stage in sun-bleached Bermuda shorts that aptly exposed his tan kneecaps to the pasty crowd, all apprehensions took flight.

To his left swayed beached mermaids of exotic complexion, fine stature, and magnificent hair. To his right swung masters of the golden trumpet and tiny soprano saxophone. Behind him labored a drummer, a bongo man, and a virtuoso steel pedalist. By his side was partner-in-crime Mac McAnally.

Two satirically somber Tiki stones held vigil on both sides of the flowery, torchlit, neon-bathed, grass-adorned stage, and from the uppermost extremities of the set, giant plasma screens displayed enlarged representations of the event, along with select visions of ships on the sea, blissfully intoxicated folk, and-when the time was right-Phoebe Cates's breasts springing forth from an unlatched red bikini top in a larger-than-life replay of the scene that made "Fast Times At Ridgemont High" famous.

Thus was the cavernous indoor space of sterile walls converted into a private island, someone's backyard barbecue, or a lucky couple's slide show of a recent getaway. Between the pleasantly jumbled program of slow songs, classics and showpieces that alternated like the tango of the tropical climate, Buffett spoke to the audience as if he were addressing a small group of friends or family at a raucous reunion.

"This song's about immorality, drive-ins and tiki bars-I think that covers everything," he said, while justifying the fact that everyone present was missing President Bush's State of the Union address. Later, catching sight of children in the crowd, he frowned in mock disapproval: "What are you people doing bringing your kids here?" Then his face softened, and he chuckled tenderly, "Well, I like to think of them as the future leaders of America, too. All right."

No song was obscure to the seasoned observers, who sported hats with lights, grass skirts, Hawaiian shirts, and clutched rapidly drying ten-dollar plastic vessels of Margaritaville Tequila margaritas and Coronas. Tribal dancers armed with spears and firesticks stomped rousingly in time to "The Natives Are Restless." Hangover cure "Grapefruit-Juicy Fruit" and favorite "It's 5 o'clock Somewhere" whetted everyone's appetite for a little "Cheeseburger in Paradise," per order of the smoking stone statues, which roared, "I LIKE MINE WITH LETTUCE AND TOMATO!!!" Not one to turn down a hungry spirit, Buffett cried, "The gods have woken! They're hungry! Let's feed ‘em!" before plunging into the carnivore's anthem. As if there were need for more entertainment, Alan Jackson even made a cameo-in cardboard form, that is: a guitarist stumbled onstage and played an entire song while under the influence of a ruddy, sunglassed, Ramen-haired representation of the country singer.

Emerging from a well-placed intermission, Buffett and the Reefers carried on with more of the different, which included a charming acoustic duet with McAnally entitled, "It's My Job." Buffett humbly attributed the idea of two acoustic guitars to Dave Matthews, and in a later piece with McAnally admitted that he had never used a capo before. But never mind, he did just fine, and made it plumb clear who was the veteran of good times.

Even while bragging about his upcoming trip to the Hawaiian Islands, he paid ample tribute to Northern California: "This song is dedicated to the people who put on wetsuits and go out in the 57-degree water. I'm getting therrre!!! But that takes a school boy heart," he winked, segueing into the so-titled song. Some were surprised to hear that Buffett had wrote a pretty rockin' theme in honor of "Fast Times's" stoner Justin Spicoli, which explained the even more shocking (not really) display of titties onscreen overhead.

Yes, he played "Margaritaville," right before his exit. No one was fooled, however, and thunderous cheering brought the whole crew back for a tremendous double encore, the highlight of which was indubitably the deployment of a gigantic blimp of a shark of the San Jose persuasion that soared over the underwater party that the night had become and blinked an angry red eye at the freakish inflated hands that waved jollily from the background which had turned into an aqua ocean scene with a hint of sunset. All too soon, the shark was parked, and the tide had taken Jimmy and friends on to the next place. Stumbling back out to the parking lot and firing up shoebox-sized grills, obstinate, seaworthy fans wished him well and returned to work after a sound vacation.


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