Jimmy Buffett threw a free concert Sunday and a Barack Obama rally broke out. However, as political rallies go, this one was low key. Well, except for the now expected rendition of “God Bless America.”
Bunting was non-existent. There was only a single stage banner, and the candidate for president made only a short taped speech.
Yet, more members of the estimated 20,000 sported shirts that mentioned “Change” than featured colorful parrots and palms. In every section, it was easy to spot the Obama fans from their buttons, shirts, hats, and even a few tattoos (temporary).
If there were any Jimmy Buffett fans planning to vote McCain they bit their lips and simply enjoyed the greatest hits concert. On the other hand, the Obama fans were more than willing to cheer Buffett when he’d drop references to the Obama campaign.
Someone once said “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” so I won’t present you with a review of the Buffett show,* but I’ll give you some not-so-random thoughts from the concert:
• Before the show fans set up party tents for some food, Buffett music, and frisbee tossing. As they filed into the Ford Amphitheater many were on their cell phones coordinating seating. By an hour after gates were opened, fans had filled the majority of the seats under the covering. Though it drizzled through much of the concert, the heavens never opened up with the rains that hit Lakeland.
• A group of St. Petersburg friends said they came because they were Buffett fans, but had already voted for Obama. One said, “I believe he is one who can change the direction of our country.” The others quickly agreed that best summed their feelings.
• As I wandered around talking the amphitheater I was recognized by someone who had seen me pick up tickets Thursday. Tim Belflower had stopped by Mitchell’s Coffee House to pick up his Buffett tickets. It was about a 90 minute drive from his Orlando home and the show was more than two hours from home, but he wanted to be a part of the rally. He felt Buffett and Obama were “a good combination.” His mother, Precious Miller, said Belflower came by love for Buffett early, “He’d listen in the womb.” They were joined by Belflower’s aunt June Mullison and Michelle Thorn who had found out about the ticket’s online. They said they were “Obama fans all.”
• “For Obama” T-Shirts spotted: Teamsters, Hispanics, NEA, Letter Carriers, and one homemade “Joe the Plumber.” That Joe added: “Now I get it” to his shirt.
• Before the show a traffic guard expressed concern the crowd would be upset when “they find out he’s only playing three songs.” Buffett played 11* A shorter set list than one of his pay concert, but I didn’t hear any grumbling from the fans after the show.
• Before the show, a murmuring crowd suddenly exploded with cheers. The cause? One local TV station turned on their camera. They stayed vocal while various fans were quickly interviewed.
• A pair of women sported homemade looking shirts that read: “If Palin is qualified than so am I”
• By 3 pm, the crowd was starting to fill the grass seating. Projected audience numbers hovered at 20,000. Representative Kathy Castor opened the rally part of the show introducing “Florida’s Renaissance Man.” She followed it with a glibly constructed political speech for Obama that mixed in well-known Buffett lyrics. If you missed it, check the tapes of half the TV news stories of the rally. The anchors played the same trick with their story introductions, but without the political agenda.
• Nan Ellen Nelson sung, Alex Sink spoke, a video of Obama and various supporters played, and by 3:20 Buffett was brought onto stage with the loudest cheers of the day. He kept the crowd on their feet with an unusual rendition of the Star Spangled Banner as arranged by band member Jake Shimabukuro.
• For the whole of the concert cam phones and small cameras were more obvious than beers held high. Usually more of the latter are seen at a Buffett concert.
• For about an hour Buffett played his most recognizable tunes. The crowd swayed and most mouthed the lyrics to every song. If there was any doubt these were Buffett fans that doubt evaporated when the crowd responded by the second or third note of each song.
• Buffett threw in occasional lines about voting for change or pro-Obama comments. But nothing too heavy.
• Buffett ended the concert and was called back for the obligatory encore. It was a bittersweet one as Buffett dedicated his song, Last Mango in Paris, to the memory of his old friend Captain Tony Tarracino who had passed away earlier in the day.
• * – I promised not to review the concert, but for those who surfed here looking for the set list I’ll include that:
Jimmy Buffett Concert for Change – November 2, 2008
2) License to Chill
3) It’s 5 o’clock Somewhere
4) Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes
5) Son of a Son of a Sailor
7) Cheeseburger in Paradise
8) Come Monday
9) Brown-Eyed Girl
Encore) Last Mango in Paris/La Vie Dansante (outro)
• For more photos see Jenyffer Maria’s Flickr set