Jimmy Buffett has long subscribed to that tenet of capitalism that it isn't necessary to come up with great ideas yourself as long as you can recognize someone else's great ideas and use them. The Grateful Dead's rabid following of self-dubbed Deadheads may have developed on its own with only gradual recognition by the band, but Buffett's fans, the Parrot Heads, were named by Timothy B. Schmidt when the erstwhile Eagles member was playing in the singer's backup group in the early '80s, and Buffett has cultivated them carefully. The Dead's stream of self-released concert recordings may be a response to the Deadheads' interest in taping their shows; Buffett's series, which began in October 2003 with six releases and continues here, is another deliberate borrowing from the Dead playbook. (Of course, he's hardly the only one, with Pearl Jam, Phish, the Allman Brothers Band, and others doing the same thing.) But with the Dead, it's a little different. The Deadheads started taping because the Dead's shows were performed without a set list; no two were alike, and you never knew what song the band would play next, or how it would be played. The same things cannot be said of a Jimmy Buffett show, which, like most concerts, tends to be pretty carefully planned out. This 28-song set performed August 26, 2003, in Cincinnati differs in only five selections from the September 16 show heard on Live in Auburn, WA, and while nine of the 29 songs on September 20's Live in Las Vegas are different, the structure of the show is the same; the differences (really just substitutions) mostly come in a brief acoustic set and in the encores. Buffett's warhorses, starting with "Margaritaville," of course, and also including "Son of a Son of a Sailor," "Come Monday," "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere," "Cheeseburger in Paradise," "A Pirate Looks at 40," "Volcano," and "Fins," are always played in the same way and in the same places in the set. So, Buffett live recordings do not have the same kind of appeal that Grateful Dead ones do. What they have instead is local charm. Cincinnati is the city where Schmidt named the Parrot Heads, and Buffett is never in any doubt about where he's playing. His frequent on-stage comments, and even lyric revisions, make constant reference to the city and its environs. Otherwise, the singer maintains a party atmosphere, frequently calling his show a "tiki bar" and encouraging both the band and the audience. The result is likely to be an excellent souvenir of the evening for the people who were there. And if you don't have any other Buffett albums, this one would make a good sampler. That carefully planned-out set cherry-picks the highlights of Buffett's many studio recordings, resulting in a virtual live best-of. Taken direct from the soundboard, the sound (just like in a real concert) is a little rough at first, but improves. And Buffett is nothing if not an engaging frontman.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2