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Review: Brickman delivers a musical valentine to Pittsburgh

Rex Rutkoski
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Jim Brickman performs at the Byham, Pittsburgh, Feb. 14, 2019.

Sometimes, in life, certain things just seem so right:

• Snow on Christmas Day

• The first robin of spring

• Fireworks on the Fourth of July

• Jim Brickman playing a concert on Valentine’s Day.

Pittsburgh fans were treated to the latter last night as the pianist’s schedule brought him to town on the most perfect of days: Feb. 14.

The experience was as lovely as it promised to be, a sweet, gentle, journey into the heart of Valentine’s night in the intimacy of the Byham Theatre. “I thought I would play some romantic songs,” Brickman said, as he teasingly stated the obvious. “I have a lot of them.”

Lots of love

He played many of them over the next two hours, accompanied by his friend since high school, vocalist Anne Cochran, and guest singer John Trones, a seasoned recording artist who headlines with symphonies across the country and was a cast member of the national tour of “Yesterday Once More: A Tribute to the Carpenters.”

Cochran, in addition to being Brickman’s featured vocalist, also is a recording artist in her own right and has sung with many symphonies, and pop orchestras, including in Pittsburgh.

She and Brickman had a Top 5 Adult Contemporary hit single in the lovely “After All These Years,” which they performed last night:

“And I loved you from the start/ But I never thought that we’d be standing here/ After all these years”

“…Here we are/With another song to sing/All these days/Pass us by/As we watched our childhood fly/And I’m still the one to share your hopes and fears/After all these years.”

She loves the song

“I never get tired of singing this song,” she said.

It certainly can be viewed as reflecting the longtime friendship and professional relationship she has had with Brickman, as well as her own private life.

She noted that her “Number One Valentine,” her husband, was back home in Cleveland.

Brickman quipped that he assumed then that he was her “Number 2 Valentine,” “so I’ll have to try harder.”

The humor throughout the night was low key and engaging as Brickman bantered with Cochran and, on separate occasions, Trones, who told the artist he was honored to be on stage with him, and that he had grown up with his music after his mom rocked him as a baby while listening to Brickman’s eight-track tapes.

A Pittsburgh tradition

Brickman said that coming to Pittsburgh was a tradition for his show.

“It’s thrilling to have so many friends here despite the fact we are from Cleveland,” he added.

This year is the 25th anniversary of the launch of his recording career, and he reminisced about the Byham being the location of his first Pittsburgh concert. “I didn’t have enough songs to fill up a concert then,” he explained, implying that he had to improvise. “Now, I have more than I could play.”

Impressive numbers

The artist’s management says he is the best-selling solo pianist of our time, earning 21 number one albums and 32 Top 20 radio singles in the industry bible, Billboard Magazine.

Such songs as “Valentine,” “If You Believe,” “Love of My Life.” “Simple Things,” and “The Gift,” were all featured last night.

The instrumental, “If You Believe,” “is the best representation of what my songs sound like,” he said.

It is his response to the question when people not familiar with him ask what style of music he plays.

“Love of My Life,” he said, is one of his most requested numbers. Trones sang it beautifully, a proclamation that “You are the love of my life/And I’m so glad you found me.”

Offering perspective

In introducing “Simple Things,” Brickman said it is a song he’ll even play for himself when he needs to put a day into perspective. “Sometimes we don’t see things right in front of us,” he reminded, as he began singing, “After all the clouds go by/The simple things remain/ The sun, the moon, the stars/The beating of two hearts/How I love the simple things.”

A charming segment came with a trio of children’s songs, sung by Brickman, with messages for all ages: “It Isn’t Easy Being Green,” “Sing, Sing a Song” and “Rainbow Connection,” which the audience loved.

More history

He even took fans back to his jingle writing years, including “on hold” music he wrote for a credit card company that wanted to give customers something to listen to while they waited on the phone for assistance.

Brickman said he also wrote a lot of jingles for Pittsburgh area companies, including Eat’n Park and Kennywood Park.

Before playing “The Gift,” he reminded the audience that it was not specifically a Christmas song, but one with a message for all seasons.

“It did not start out as a duet,” he said. “I saw a couple in my mind singing it back and forth to each other.”

With lines like, “All I want is to hold you forever” and “I thank you every day for the gift,” it resonated nicely on Valentine’s Day.

Brickman, Cochran and Trones sent the appreciative audience home with “Valentine,” and its perfect sentiment on this day: “You’re all I need, my love, my Valentine.”

Rex Rutkoski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.