Buffett concert draws 50,000 to Atlantic City beach

Perfect weather, a new attraction, a big name and a free show combined to give Atlantic City its second biggest beach concert ever Saturday, including performances by Jimmy Buffett and Wilson Phillips.

Tom Foley, chief of emergency services and director of emergency management services for Atlantic City, estimated that more than 30,000 people were on the LandShark Beach in front of Resorts Casino Hotel. They were joined by another 20,000 people on the Boardwalk and at the LandShark Bar in the new $35 million, Buffett-backed, Margaritaville complex, which brought the singer-songwriter to the resort.

With more than 50,000 attendees, the Buffett and Wilson Phillips concert trails only the 250,000 people who attended a Beach Boys concert in 1983 as the largest beach concert in the city’s history.

Buffett is a longstanding popular concert attraction whose concerts sell out virtually immediately.

For the thousands of people on the beach and Boardwalk who never have seen Buffett perform live, he showed why people pay a great deal of money to see him year after year.

Buffett’s music and lyrics are perfect for a lazy day in the sun at the beach with a favorite beverage.

Buffett made his appearance after the first four songs of country artist Mac McAnally, who has long been a partner of Buffett as a songwriter, musician and producer.

Buffett came out at 4:11 p.m. Saturday, after McAnally started doing a song he wrote that was a hit for Kenny Chesney called “Back Where I Come From.”

Buffett was appropriately attired for the sunny day in the 80s, with a white T-shirt and rainbow-colored striped shorts.

“Hello, shore people. Good afternoon. Built it, and he will come. Look at this view,” Buffett said about the beach and ocean to his right from the stage. “The best thing we did was build this place in Atlantic City… This is pretty cool. I’m glad it worked out this way.”

Buffett basically took over the concert at this point. He said he was playing with the Beatles version of his Coral Reefer Band with drums, bass and lead guitar backing up him and McAnally.

During Buffett’s hour on stage, he played all of his best known songs for fans, who are known as Parrotheads, including, “Fins,” “Volcano,” “A Pirate Looks at Forty,” “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes.”

Along with Buffett’s laid-back music being perfect for a summer day, his attitude and personality showed why he has made such a connection with his audience over decades.

“You are sounding pretty good out there, like the Reefettes,” Buffett said as the crowd sang along to one of his songs.

Buffett made repeated references to how well southern New Jersey survived last year’s Hurricane Sandy.

“It actually finally feels and looks like summer in Northeast,” said Buffett, aware the spring was miserable in this area.

Of course, Buffett didn’t leave the stage before singing his most famous song, “Margaritaville.”

“It is so nice to be in Jersey again. Thank you all. Have a great Saturday night,” Buffett said before he left the stage, with Wilson Phillips still to come at 7 p.m.

Even though Buffett was not closing the show, many of the people came to see him. One man was in full pirate makeup and attire with a boat around his waist.

Buffett is all about sand, surf and fun, and the crowd Saturday lived up to his philosophy. Beach balls flew through the air, and people standing at the front of the stage threw around plastic, inflated sharks.

Women wore bikinis, many men were topless and beach chairs, umbrellas, sunscreen and suntan oil were plentiful.

“We were praying for two months for good weather,” said Mark Giannantonio, the president and CEO of Resorts, who came on stage to welcome the crowd at 1 p.m. “We planned this (the beach concert) two months ago. After the opening of Margaritaville, we wanted to help jump-start the summer season.

Wilson Phillips, the singing trio of Carnie and Wendy Wilson and Chynna Phillips, actually had more pop chart success than Buffett with three No. 1 pop singles during the 1990s, but thousands of people left the beach and the Boardwalk before they came on.

They were entertaining with their music and their personalities.

They sang two of their No. 1 singles, “Release Me” and “You’re In Love,” among the first five songs of their set.

Each of the women took time to do a brief impression of another famous singer. Carnie Wilson did a little of Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time.” Phillips tackled a snippet of Taylor Dayne’s melodramatic “Tell It To My Heart.” Wendy Wilson had to step up her nasal-voice game to do a piece of Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors.” Their stage personalities can be funny or annoying depending on a person’s mood.

The opening Andy Grammer was well suited to start off the day of music. His music was pleasant, and he was personable on stage.

Grammer came on late at 1:34 p.m., but he made up for it by playing 17 songs in an hour. Grammer came out strong right from the start, with probably his best known tune as his opening number, “Keep Your Head Up.”

A singer-songwriter in the pop-rock mode, Grammer had enough time to thoroughly cover his self-titled debut CD, which was released in June.

Grammer said from the stage that he played a Jersey Strong benefit not too long ago, and that the crowd looked really good and back on its feet.

Besides the material from his debut CD, Grammer surprised the crowd with covers of Maroon 5’s “Sunday Morning” the No. 1 pop-hip-hop hit “Thrift Shop” and “We Found Love (In A Hopeless Place).”

Contact Vincent Jackson: