Hippo Manchester
December 22, 2005

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CD Reviews: Jimmy Buffett, Live at Fenway Park

Mailboat Records, 2005

B+

“There were Parrotheads dancing in front of the Green Monster,” Jimmy Buffett pens in Live at Fenway Park’s liner notes.

And you have to admit, that’s quite a colorful image. A wildly popular concert draw (rivaled only in fan loyalty by the Grateful Dead, and Jerry’s now jammin’ elsewhere), Buffett is not just a perennial favorite, especially in Florida (where I lived for 10 years), but he’s also a brilliant businessman. After all, Warren Buffett is his uncle. His best-selling books, restaurants, clothing line and record company have Jimmy flying his plane or sailing his boat straight to the bank, laughing all the way. So it’s little surprise that Buffett has released yet another live recording. (Live in Hawaii hit CD bins in March, 2005; that followed Live in Las Vegas in 2003 and Live in Mansfield in 2004. Mansfield, of all places!) But you have to give the beachcomber props: His fans from the seventies, much like myself, have grown older, but not up. Their cars have shifted from Beetles to Bimmers, their living quarters have gone from apartments to homes and their earnings have shot from minimum wage to six-figure incomes. He markets to yuppies and if you take one look at a Buffett tailgate pre-show party in the parking lot (albeit during summer months or in warmer climates), the proof is in the Jaguar. As a veteran of more than 25 Buffett shows from San Diego to South Beach, I can attest that the tailgate is the vichyssoise to the main course. I’ve attended weddings at Buffett pre-concert parties, schooled younger Parrotheads on how to be  “Gypsies in the Palace,” and have seen more blenders run off car engines than President Bush has vacation days. Considering Buffet’s built an insatiable fan base, one more live album is just another reason to celebrate an endless summer and a bottomless margarita glass.

Live at Fenway captures Buffett at his best — live and spontaneous, but don’t hit the fool button just yet; the manic energy of his live show is slightly rehearsed (that doesn’t include rabid fans dressed in shark fins, feathers, grass skirts and fiberglass blender costumes.) This two-disc set contains the usual suspects (“Volcano,” “Cheeseburger in Paradise”), as well as cuts from 2004’s License to Chill, his first number-one album ever. But what sets this collection apart is the bonus DVD, featuring 55 minutes of footage from his two-nights at Fenway, recorded live September 10 and 12, 2004. The  highlight: Reversing the curse of the Bambino. (You gotta see it to believe it. It’s showboating Buffett at his cheesiest.) Fans will remind you that not only is Jimmy just one of six authors to top the New York Times Best Seller list in both fiction and non-fiction, but also he assisted in getting the Sox their first pennant in a century. And interestingly enough, disc two closes with “Defying Gravity.” With stunts like Buffett’s, you have to believe he is.

— George Pelletier