A review of Jimmy Buffett's Oct. 23, 2012, concert at KeyArena — the musician's first Northwest appearance in nine years.

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Concert Review |

It’s hard to beat the balminess of a Jimmy Buffett concert on a chilly autumn night.

Thousands of Buffett fans in pirate costumes, parrot hats, shark-fin caps and other Caribbean-themed accessories crammed KeyArena Tuesday night to act out the words to “Growing Older But Not Up,” recorded in 1980 but perhaps even more relevant today.

The 65-year-old star of what was once dubbed “gulf and western” — an irresistible blend of country music and Caribbean vibes — hadn’t performed in the Seattle area in nine years, making his “Lounging at the Lagoon” show one of the season’s hottest tickets. Fans greeted his entrance with a thunderous roar worthy of a shipload of buccaneers.

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Buffett (in T-shirt, shorts and bare feet) and his 11-piece Coral Reefer Band filled a sprawling stage decorated to look like a beach-side bar. Behind the stage, a massive screen suitable for a drive-in theater displayed colorful video of Caribbean locales, as well as clips of swimming “mermaids” from a Florida tourist attraction that has been in business since the 1940s.

The stage was also flanked by two fake evergreen trees, among several references to the Seattle area. The best nod to the Northwest came during a boisterous version of Buffett’s signature “Margaritaville,” in which he substituted “Nibblin’ on crabcakes” for a famous line about spongecake. And Buffett reminded the crowd that the melancholy “Come Monday” (his first major hit in the mid-’70s) had caught on early in Seattle.

Buffett and his band opened the 2 ½-hour concert with the wistful “One Particular Harbor,” his classic tune of Caribbean enchantment. But party songs dominated much of the show, among them “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes,” “Why Don’t We Get Drunk and … ,” “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” “Fins” (performed during one of the encores) and the infectious “Volcano.”

Well-placed covers added depth to the show: “Knee Deep” by the Zac Brown Band (featuring guitarist Mac McAnally on vocals), the Blue Hawaiians’ “Swingin’ Hula Girl,” Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” and Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” (Ritchie, a guest at a Detroit show in July, appeared on the video screen, catching concertgoers by surprise).

Talented backup singer Nadirah Shakoor sang “The King of Somewhere Hot,” recasting the song as “The Queen of Somewhere Hot.” And McAnally sang Alan Jackson’s vocal part on the Buffett-Jackson hit “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” which kicked off the first of two encores.

Buffett appeared to thoroughly enjoy himself, thanking concertgoers for his 40 years of success.

Before he left the stage, he promised not to wait another nine years to perform in the Northwest. “How about the Gorge next year?” he said to loud applause.

Gene Stout: gene@genestout.com

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