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Brickman hits his target audience with well-paced performance

With his “On A Winter’s Night” program, Jim Brickman’s approach to the piano, his material and the Rockwell Hall audience was musically polished and professionally honed. The result was a pleasant seasonal concoction, a warm and cheerfully soothing thing. He bills himself, rather self-deprecatingly, as “America’s Romantic Piano Sensation,” but Brickman knows what demographic target he wants to hit and his success through the years gives proof that his aim is true.

There was a specific kind of musical virtuosity at work here, one leaning toward a comfortable level of excitement rather than raucous approval. The man knows how to deliver the goods that his listeners want to hear, and the results were spot-on as he and his musical guests (vocalist Anne Cochran and violinist Tracy Silverman) meshed old tunes with newer pieces in performances showcasing why he has won so many fans over the course of nearly two decades.

Brickman’s pleasant tunesmithing creates uplifting incidental music for his passionate admirers. Saturday night featured a smartly crafted, workmanlike performance that engaged his sizable audience with well-chosen pacing. When a tender ballad was needed, there it was, and when an up-tempo mood-changer was called for, the forces were marshaled for delivery.

Songs like “On A Winter’s Night,” “Timeless” and “If You Believe” focused on Brickman’s singing and piano playing, but a fair amount of stage time was allotted to Cochran and Silverman, too. And, to be fair, the show would have been more of a one-note production if they weren’t able to carry their share of the load.

Cochran’s singing is solid and her comedic interplay with Brickman had the easy flow of friends who have known each other for decades – a fact in this case. Silverman played a six-string violin and ripped through a crowd-pleasing medley that slipped from “Smoke On the Water” to “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel” and “Orange Blossom Special” with speed and power.

Adjectives like “personable” and “soothing” could easily be applied to Brickman and the overall production, but that would discount the logic and tautness with which everything proceeded. It was a bit like being in a sonic cocoon where goodness and light prevailed; there was just enough tension to hold the process together while delivering a musical respite from the hectic world outside.

This was not necessarily a bad thing, because these demonstrably happy concertgoers were satisfied with Brickman’s offerings but, as a whole, one would be hard-pressed to call the results intellectually stimulating. The music was almost an incidental part of the whole experience, an experience that would be just as at home on a Las Vegas or Branson stage as the music would be (as alluded to by Brickman in one point of the concert) in an airport bathroom or as an audio backdrop at a shopping mall.

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