If you’ve not yet found yourself taking in a show at North Tonawanda’s Riviera Theatre, you should make a point to get it on your calendar before the year ends.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the magnificence of Shea’s Performing Arts Center as much as the next person, and there may be no better place in Western New York to see a theatrical production than the Irish Classical Theater, but there is indeed life outside the city limits, and Saturday night, the Riviera was swaying to the silky smooth sounds of singer, songwriter and uber-talented piano player Jim Brickman.
Brickman visited Western New York to kick off his 2015 “Platinum Tour” that will carry into early 2016. But for a few hours, the bus was parked, the piano was tuned, and Brickman’s fans enjoyed about as mellow an evening of music and conversation as they could hope for.
With a capacity of 1,100, there were very few empty seats in the Riviera as Brickman strode to the piano in black slacks and a red oxford, looking fit, tanned and as relaxed as his fans were soon to be.
Wasting no time, he launched into “Rocket to the Moon,” opting to open with a few instrumental versions of his songs, before swinging the mic around and showing off his vocal voracity on “The Gift,” where he demonstrated that his talents are far from limited to the pen and the piano.
If you are someone who has been listening to Brickman’s music for years, one thing that will strike you if you’ve never seen him live is the warmth and humor he exudes when he talks with the audience.
The evening was almost akin to a “VH1 Storytellers” segment, with Brickman peppering in funny, sometimes offbeat stories about everything from his career to his colon (the latter in reference to being wheeled in for a colonoscopy, only to find the nurse, unaware of who he was, fire up one of his CDs, telling him patients really relax with “the piano guy”).
Joined onstage by one of his many collaborators, John Trones, the two teamed up to deliver not only wonderful renditions of several of Brickman’s better-known hits, but they proved to be a worthy comic duo, with Brickman often being the self-effacing butt of the jokes.
For new fans who might not be accustomed to long stretches of purely instrumental music, the banter and storytelling broke up the evening well.
Following a brief intermission, Brickman returned, donning a tie and taking requests from the audience, following a lighthearted ode to his childhood via a Muppets montage.
With 38 albums spanning two decades, selecting music for the live show is no easy task, but Brickman assured his fans they would hear the hits, noting, “I believe if you’re lucky enough to have hits, you should play them.”
True to his word, he didn’t let them down. From “Romanza” to the aforementioned “The Gift” and “Simple Things,” his first song to reach No. 1 on the adult contemporary charts, and his self-proclaimed “favorite song,” he treated the fans to his A-list music.
With his grace on the piano, his ease in storytelling and his affable sidekick on the mic, it was an evening that could have gone well into the next morning and you could imagine no one leaving their seats.
But alas, shortly after 10, with a flourish and a finale, Brinkman was gone, whisked out a side door and onto his next show. But for fans of the contemporary artist, it was an evening they won’t soon forget.