By MIKE CHAIKEN
Pianist and songwriter Jim Brickman has never shied away from sharing his love for the music of the 1970s.
For instance, he reveled in the music of 1970s’ icons The Carpenters with the album “Yesterday Once More,” in which he covered several classics such as “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “Rainy Days and Mondays.”
And in an interview several months ago with The Observer, he reiterated his love for the songs of that era.
So, it should be no surprise that when Brickman was tapped to tape a musical special in Connecticut at the Oakdale, he decided to put the spotlight on that era.
But Brickman also decided to put a little twist to the performance by pulling in some of the original performers of that era to step up on stage with him.
Asked how the special concert performance came about, Brickman, calling from the road in Florida, said Xfinity approached him about doing a musical special for cablecast.
However, Brickman said Xfinity had no special concept in mind. Instead, Xfinity told Brickman that the direction of the special was all up to him.
To have someone say “whateever you want it to be is what we want to do is amazing… You don’t get to do that often.”
Given that carte blanche from Xfinity, Brickman then did some brainstorming. Brickman said he had done several specials already that focused on his own music. So this time, he wanted to try to do something with a great concept.
As a songwriter, Brickman said, he began to reflect on his musical influences. And he realized the heart of who he is emanates from the artists of the 1970s.
So Brickman said he went back to Xfinity and pitched the idea of the concert about the songs of a generation. And Xfinity gave its green light to the idea.
Brickman said he then began to approach the artists he admired from that era. He drew up a wish life featuring different people who meant different things to him.
For example, Rita Coolidge was selected because of memories from his youth. He said when he was in high school, he and his wife sang the Boz Scaggs classic, “We’re All Alone,” in a talent song. Subsequently, that became their song. Eventually, singer Rita Coolidge had a huge hit with the same song. In Brickman’s mind, Coolidge’s version became the definitive one in his mind. So when the time came to approach artists for special, Coolidge was on the list. She was invited. And she accepted.
Eventually, in addition to Coolidge, Brickman was able to secure David Cassidy (“I Think I Love You”); Billboard Hot 100 chart topper, Stephen Bishop (“On and On” and “It Might Be You”); Motown legend, Thelma Houston (“Baby Mine” and “Don’t Leave Me This Way”); and ‘70s pop-icon, Yvonne Elliman.
Several of the artists on the bill have long since left their 1970s selves behind and built careers beyond their initial pop hits of the 1970s. For instance, former teen idol, David Cassidy, has performed in stage musicals and Vegas, for instance.
Asked how the artists felt about performing their older material, Brickman said he understood, as an artist, any trepidation of being treated like one-hit wonders whose careers began and ended with a hit decades ago. He said sometimes an artist when you are defined by a particular track, they feel hemmed in by that success. But in time, you begin to accept the special opportunities that hit have given you.
When it came to pulling together the special, Brickman said he made sure the artists knew that presence wasn’t about nostalgia. Instead the performance was a celebration of the music that shaped a generation.
Brickman’s concert is being taped at the Oakdale in Wallingford (which will be broadcast as a free offering on Xfinity’s On Demand service and eventually sold as a DVD/ CD package).
Brickman said the Oakdale was chosen for a couple of reasons. First of all, Comcast, Xfinity’s parent company, is affiliated with the Oakdale. They also wanted the show to be filmed in New England since he has a strong fan bases in the era. Also, the facility is close enough to New York to make it accessible to a production crew.
So when Xfinity asked to film the special in Oakdale, Brickman thought it was a great idea.
For fans across the country who don’t get a chance to make it out to the Oakdale, and still want that live palpable experience, Brickman said not to fear. The plan is eventually to take this package out on the road across America.
Jim Brickman’s Celebration of the 70’s will be performed Saturday, March 2 at 7:30 p.m., at the Toyota Oakdale Theatre in association with Comcast in Wallingford. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.com. Tickets will also be available by calling 800-745-3000 or by visiting the Oakdale Theater Box Office (weekdays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m). Ticket prices are $150, $75, $50, $40, and $30. A special VIP package is available with the $150 ticket, which includes a pre-show meet and greet.