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Review: Buffett brings a hot party to First Niagara

| Friday, July 19, 2013, 10:15 a.m.

It was island hot …

There was thunder and lightning and pouring rain …

And the fans didn't seem to mind at all.

Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band made their annual trek July 18 to First Niagara Pavilion near Burgettstown, playing a tight show for about two hours that made for a nonstop party — literally. There was no intermission, and any longer breaks for switching instruments were covered by Robert Greenidge playing bits of songs on steel drums.

Buffett's getting ready to release his first studio album in years, so a few of the 26 precious setlist spots were given to new work. “Something About a Boat,” written by Jerry Jeff Walker's son, Django, is a good encapsulation of what a lot of fans like about the music: There is something about a boat, a guitar and your dog that can make rough times feel better. The song was part of a “pickin' on the porch” semi-acoustic set Buffett said began as a tribute to Andy Griffith, recalling the performances that dotted the actor's show.

“Too Drunk to Karaoke” was “one of those sensitive Jimmy Buffett songs,” Buffett joked with the crowd, and follows the pattern of “5 O'Clock Somewhere” in that the single will be a duet with a Nashville star, this time Toby Keith. In both “Drunk” and “5 O'Clock,” Mac McAnally showed his versatility as a singer by filling in for the big names.

McAnally also got to show his stuff on his be-proud-of-who-you are anthem, “Back Where I Come From.” The video in the background got a lot of crowd reaction, starting with images from Buffett and McAnally's childhoods and switching to a paean to Pittsburgh “culture,” its universities and sports teams.

The third of the new songs, “I Want to Go Back to Cartagena,” got its South American groove from the combination of Michael Utley on accordion, Jim Mayer on upright bass, Greenidge on steel drums and John Lovell on trumpet.

The rest of the setlist, made up of Buffett standards, occasionally got tweaked to include an area reference, but never at the risk of messing up someone's favorite song. With a song catalog as deep as Buffett's, someone's favorite is bound to be missed. To that end, it's been announced online that fans will get to pick the setlist for an upcoming concert in Hawaii through Internet voting, but no details have been released on Buffett's website.

And although the members of the Parrot Head phlock might be loathe to admit it, they are growing older and up — at least a little bit.

The audience for the Buffett shows these days is as likely to be guys in dockers and women in summer dresses, or Mom and Dad with the 'keets in tow as it is to be girls in bikinis or guys in coconut-shell bras and grass skirts. But then again, you're just as likely to see Mom and the girl-keets in the coconuts-and-grass attire.

But growing up a little isn't such a bad thing: In heat like yesterday's concert, knowing how to party responsibly was a good skill.

And always one to know how to market, Buffett's team had giveaways in the parking lot of his latest branded product, Margaritaville Parrot Head sun block, and for the 21 and older set, samples of Landshark Lager, his venture with Anheuser-Busch.

Vaunda Bonnett is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at vbonnett@tribweb.com or 412-320-7917.

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