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Inside Jimmy Buffett’s Tribute Concert: McCartney, Margaritas, and One Hell of a Parrothead Party

“Good evening, Hollywood-fucking-Bowl!” Paul McCartney exclaimed to the flock of Parrotheads gathered before him. A sold-out crowd had assembled in the famed Los Angeles venue on Thursday to celebrate the legacy of Jimmy Buffett at “Keep the Party Going,” a laid-back, one-night-only tribute show full of eclectic guests.

“I had the great pleasure of knowing Jimmy, and like everyone else on the bill tonight, I said, ‘This is one great man.’ He was generous. He was funny. He’d done just about everything in his life,” McCartney said, before launching into “Let It Be.” It was a song that McCartney said he’d played for Buffett at his home during the final week of his life. Buffett died in Sept. 1, 2023, at 76 after a battle with Merkel cell skin cancer.

This being a Buffett tribute, however, any poignancy took a backseat to the party. The show officially kicked off at 7 p.m., but in the Parrothead time zone, it was perpetually 5 o’clock somewhere. Outside the gates, a sea of fans had donned their best tropical shirts, captain caps, and the occasional parrot accessory to get the festivities started. Even security was wearing leis.

Along with the stacked musical lineup, “Keep the Party Going: A Tribute to Jimmy Buffett” featured introductions — some via video, some in person —  from Dolly Parton, James Taylor, Woody Harrelson, Pat Riley, and Dave Matthews. Harrison Ford was there in the flesh.

“There is no other way to say it: There will never be another like Jimmy,” Ford told the crowd, before introducing the Zac Brown Band as “one of Jimmy’s favorite and most-frequent collaborators.” The group jammed through the new track “Pirates & Parrots,” out April 19, and their collab with Buffett “Knee Deep,” with Brown literally taking off his pants to play the song in shorts and a tee backed by Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band.

Randall Michelson/Hewitt Silva-Live Nation

Mac McAnally, a longtime member of the Coral Reefer Band, introduced Eric Church, who delivered one of the standout performances of the night, as well as one of Buffett’s finest quotes.

“Jimmy enjoyed living life more than any person enjoyed living life,” the country star said. “I can remember we were hiking one day and we were heading up this vista and we started talking about music and songwriting and our careers and his life and my life, and death. And, ‘You know, Eric,’ [Jimmy] said, ‘Guys like us, we don’t really die.’ He said, ‘because the songs live forever.’”

“And this one will,” Church said, as the opening chords to “Son of a Son of a Sailor” rang out over the Bowl and an image of a sailboat drifting along the water was projected on a screen behind the musicians. Later, a projection of the Arc de Triopmhe appeared behind Jackson Browne as he sang his stirring rendition of “He Went to Paris,” one of Buffett’s greatest cuts from 1973’s A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean.

Randall Michelson/Hewitt Silva-Live Nation

In the latter half, the set list shifted to songs that Buffett wasn’t exactly known for: Snoop Dogg took the stage for a performance of “Gin and Juice,” alongside psychedelic visuals of Buffett in the 2019 Matthew McConaughey film The Beach Bum. And Pitbull appeared to perform his own “Don’t Stop the Party” before being joined by Jon Bon Jovi for “Thank God & Jimmy Buffett.”

Sheryl Crow, who delivered an audience-participation rendition of Fins,” recalled adventures with Buffett and being hired by him when she was “absolutely a nobody” to sing backup on his 1989 album Off to See the Lizard. “[Buffett] is, for me, the most beautiful illustration of what it means to be alive and awake, and absolutely present in every moment,” Crow said.

For the home stretch, Don Johnson — no stranger to pastels and warm-weather vibes from his Miami Vice days — called to the stage “a bunch of guys [they] used to hang out with back in the day” and introduced the Eagles. Led by Don Henley and Joe Walsh, the California icons played their own miniature set featuring Henley’s “The Boys of Summer” and the band’s “Take It to the Limit” and “In the City.” The Eagles hung around to back up McCartney on the Beatles’ “Let It Be.”

Randall Michelson/Hewitt Silva-Live Nation

But there’s only one way a tribute to Buffett can end, however, and Sir Paul knew it. Grabbing a margarita, he joined the Coral Reefer Band and the tribute’s cast for a “Margaritaville” finale.


“Jimmy Buffett, get a big kick out of this,” McAnally said. “Raise a glass, show ’em how to do it.”

Jimmy Buffett Tribute Show Set List

“It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” – Coral Reefer Band
“Grapefruit – Juicy Fruit” – Jake Owen
“Pencil Thin Moustache” – Coral Reefer Band
“Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” – Kenny Chesney
“Back Where I Come From” – Kenny Chesney
“One Particular Harbour” – Angelique Kidjo
“Pirates & Parrots” – Zac Brown
“Knee Deep” – Zac Brown
“Son of a Son of a Sailor” – Eric Church
“Volcano” – Timothy B. Schmit
“Tin Cup Chalice” – Brandi Carlile
“Come Monday” – Brandi Carlile
“Cheeseburger in Paradise” – Coral Reefer Band
“He Went to Paris” – Jackson Browne
“Bubbles Up” – Coral Reefer Band
“Southern Cross” – JD Souther
“Why Don’t We Get Drunk” – Coral Reefer Band
“Gin and Juice” – Snoop Dogg
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” – Jake Shimabukuro
“Don’t Stop the Party” – Pitbull
“Thank God & Jimmy Buffett” – Pitbull and Jon Bon Jovi
“Fins” – Sheryl Crow
“A Pirate Looks at Forty” – Jack Johnson
“Brown Eyed Girl” – Zac Brown and Dave Grohl
“The Boys of Summer” – Eagles
“Take It to the Limit” – Eagles
“In the City” – Eagles
“Let It Be” – Paul McCartney, Eagles
“Margaritaville” – Coral Reefer Band and Company

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