MY ROMANCE: AN EVENING WITH JIM BRICKMAN
Review by Michael Jacobson
Brickman, Olivia Newton-John, Donny Osmond, Dave Koz, Anne Cochran, Tracy Scott
Director: Larry Jordan
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Stereo
Video: Standard 1.33:1
Studio: Windham Hill/BMG
Features: Music Video, Biography, Photo Gallery, Alternate Angles
Length: 75 Minutes
Release Date: November 7, 2000
Jim Brickman has been successful so far in avoiding the
common adult contemporary pratfall of “you either love him or hate him”
(think: Michael Bolton, Kenny G,
Yanni). Brickman you can love or
hate, but you can also just simply like him.
I guess I fall into that category. I’m not a huge fan, but I confess, when his song
“Valentine” with Martina McBride was on the radio, I liked it well enough to
pick up his Picture This CD. I
listened to it a few times, and thought it was okay.
The most prominent aspect of the disc to me was the free magnet that came
with it, which I still have on my refrigerator door.
I guess you could say the CD itself was relegated to the ‘almost
forgotten’ pile in my collection…or it would have, except for a
number of my female co-workers frequent requests to borrow it.
Brickman is a gifted pianist and composer.
His style is modest, yet very pretty, with nice senses of melody and
chord phrasing. I’ll easily admit
that I prefer his music to, say, the bombastic pomposity of Yanni.
So when it came time for me to review My Romance, I approached the
event neither with anticipation nor with dismay.
What I experienced, however, was wonderful.
For starters, this is one of the best sounding concert DVDs I’ve ever
heard—more on that further down—but secondly, I found the presentation of
the songs, along with the surprise guest stars, created a truly memorable
concert viewing experience.
Generally, to be good, all a concert needs is a competent
artist and a collection of songs you like.
If, by chance, the concert stumbles upon a really magical moment along
its course, then it suddenly transcends merely being a piece of entertainment,
and becomes something where the music comes alive and absolutely fills you from
head to toe. When Brickman first
strikes the opening notes to “I Honestly Love You” and Olivia Newton-John
joins him on stage to a rigorous standing ovation, that was one such moment.
When she performed the song, it was like the last twenty or so years had
simply stood still. She’s probably done it thousands upon thousands of times,
but between the two performers, it seemed like both were just discovering the
magic and emotion of the song for the first time.
When the song had ended, I literally found myself clasping
my hands together and saying out loud, “Please, please stay and sing
‘Valentine’.” You see, there
was no song list included on the box, so I was watching without knowing what
might come next. Earlier guest
stars, like Anne Cochran and Tracy Scott Silverman, had done a single number
with Jim and quietly exited. But on
this night, my hopes were answered. The
very next number was “Valentine”, and off the top of my head, I can’t
think of a single concert moment that moved me more.
As an extra treat, Olivia stayed on for one more tune, one
that she had co-written with Jim Brickman, the melancholy and beautiful
‘Change of Heart’. And there I
was, clasping my hands together and saying, “Please, please stay and sing
‘Physical’.” Well, you
can’t get everything you want.
In addition to the celebrities already mentioned, sax man
Dave Koz also joins Brickman for a couple of numbers, as does Donnie Osmond, who
drew a big crowd response from his home state fans in Utah.
Osmond joins Cochran in rendering “The Gift”, then stays for a solo
version of “The Love of My Life”. Best
of all, when you think the surprises are over, he comes bounding back on stage
at the end to share the mike with Jim on “The Rainbow Connection”, one of my
all time favorite tunes.
Did I say share the mike?
Indeed I did. I was
surprised when Jim took a couple of turns singing his own tunes.
His voice isn’t bad, but if I were him, I wouldn’t give up playing
the piano just yet.
The rest of the concert is peppered with Jim’s
instrumental compositions. His
showmanship is modest, but still attention demanding, as he uses his face and
body expressively as he plays. The
sound of his Yamaha grand piano fills the concert hall, and the notes are
beautiful and selective. I didn’t
hear a single mistake in any of his performances.
I only wish those who made this video had focused on his hands a little
more, which is what I personally enjoy seeing when I watch a pianist play.
Still, there was a good visual mix of Jim at his piano, the crowd
responses, and the stage and lighting, which featured a large revolving platform
that slowly spun the artist and instrument during some of the numbers.
And Brickman manages to tell a brief story or two between numbers,
garnering a few laughs and getting out some information about how some of his
compositions came into being.
And by the time it was all over, I was smiling broadly.
It was 75 minutes of very good music, with some nice surprises along the
way, and an excellent sounding concert going experience.
Did I say I wasn’t a huge Jim Brickman fan earlier?
It might be time for me to rethink that.
This concert was originally shot for public television.
As such, it is naturally a full frame presentation filmed on video.
It looks fine, mostly because of the nice, tasteful multi-colored stage
lighting and the patterns they create. I
noticed no image problems save for the typical video limitations that are to be
expected; videotape never quite looks as sharp as film.
Still, images were clear, and the occasional softness seemed to be a boon
considering the nature of the music involved. No real complaints.
The 5.1 audio, on the other hand, is spectacular, and thus
far the best sounding live concert I’ve heard on DVD. You may find that surprising, given that most of the music
involved is a simple, single piano. I
was surprised, too, but I have to give credit…the piano sound is crystal
clear, dynamic, and the soundtrack captures the concert experience by opening up
the music on front and rear stages, with a perfect balance to make you think
you’re sitting in a concert hall. The
applause comes from all sides, too, as though you were in the middle of the
audience. Even the .1 channel
carries the bass from the piano so strongly that I could feel the vibrations in
my couch. It was a perfectly
natural and perfectly rendered concert sound all around.
You could turn off your monitor and enjoy the listening experience alone
tremendously. As mentioned, the
music is consistently beautiful, so you really couldn’t ask for anything more
to go with this DVD.
Yes, there are a few features on this concert disc,
starting with the music video for “The Gift”.
There is also a Jim Brickman bio and discography, and a photo gallery
from the concert set to music. The
box states there is multi-angle capability, but my player told me otherwise when
I watched the disc. My one real
complaint, which goes here because I don’t know where else to voice it, is
with the chapter stops. Most are
well done, starting right at the beginning of its respective tune.
Others, however, come in partway through Brickman’s spoken
introductions, and worst of all, “The Rainbow Connection” chapter stop
begins in the middle of the song! Yeek.
My Romance: An Evening with Jim Brickman is a surprising effective and excellent concert disc, that boasts tremendous use of 5.1 audio, surprise guests, and beautiful piano music by a modest yet masterful showman. Even if you don’t consider Brickman a favorite artist, I’d still seriously recommend giving this disc a try. It’s that good.