Jimmy Buffett’s Last Concert + the Clues Everyone Missed
Jimmy Buffett's final concert was an impromptu performance in Rhode Island two months before his Sept. 1 death. The build-up to the show and what started to happen afterward were quiet clues that his health was worse than he let on.
When the 76-year-old "Margaritaville" singer postponed shows in Sept. 2022 and May 2023, he did so with a hint that whatever had left him hospitalized was just a roadblock. There was nothing to indicate his condition was terminal.
"Once I am in shape, we will look at the whens and wheres of shows," he said on Facebook on May 19. "I think playing is as therapeutic for me as it is for fans to listen and sing along. Looking forward to announcing a new date for Charleston as well as some new shows! Fins up!"
Then, he turned up at Sunset Cove, a restaurant in Portsmouth, R.I. Owner Mike MacFarlane told CBS Boston he didn't know Buffett was coming until just before showtime. Mac McAnally was the scheduled performer for an anticipated crowd of a few hundred. McAnally is, of course, part of Buffett's band.
"Mac got a hold of me and said, 'Hey Jimmy just reached out and wants to come up and do a few songs what do you think?' and I said let's find a way to make it happen," MacFarlane says.
It led to this:
Buffett was staying in Long Island and, per MacFarlane, wanted to get out of the house. So he left a note and flew to Rhode Island and performed an eight-song, 45-minute, hit-filled set (setlist below).
The small crowd was thrilled, but while multiple news outlets covered the gig, few reported it as anything more than a nice surprise.
Days earlier, Buffett quietly canceled a festival gig slated for July 6. Then, in mid-August, he canceled the Charleston, S.C., gig he'd talked about making good soon. As summer roared along, he slipped out of the spotlight aside from several nostalgic posts on social media, where he'd also compliment artists who covered his songs and reflect on better times (or show off his dogs).
In retrospect, there were signs that his health was worse than anyone thought, but given his age and energy at each show he played during his long battle with skin cancer, nobody put it together. When news of his death was shared just after midnight on Sept. 2, the music community was devastated. "Heartbroken" is a word you'll find in so many social media posts.
Jimmy Buffett's Last Concert Setlist:
(*All songs with Mac McAnally)
1. “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere”
2. “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes”
3. “Cheeseburger in Paradise”
4. “Song of a Son of a Sailor”
5. “Come Monday”
7. “A Pirate Looks at Forty”