(Sound Board, MCC, Detroit, MI - October 16th, 2011)
For over 30 years, one way or another Richard Marx has consistently made his mark on the music industry. His debut single 'Don't Mean Nothing' and self-titled debut album may well have kicked-started his career as a solo artist back in 1987, but his 14th and latest chart topper, 'Long Hot Summer' (performed by Keith Urban) has given Marx the distinction of having a song he wrote (or co-wrote) top the charts in four different decades!
And so, now out on the road performing different stylings of all his hit singles and more, his first-ever solo acoustic tour made its way to the Sound Board (located inside the Motor City Casino) here in Detroit, MI.
As the 20 string orchestra take their places on stage, Richard Marx slowly walks out. The crowd suddenly burst into life and are up on their feet applauding him. He bows in thanks to them, grabs his acoustic guitar, steps center stage, and what follows is pure, unadulterated musical wonderment for two solid hours.
He first brings us ‘Endless Summer Nights,’ then bowing again to the audience’s applause at its end, goes straight into ‘Take This Heart.’ Done with that classic track, Richard takes a seat on a stool before addressing his fans: “It’s been a long time since I’ve been in your neck of the woods. I’m so excited in doing these songs in a different way. This next song comes from an album that went Double Plywood,” he laughs, as do the audience. “It was the first single from My Own Best Enemy. This is called ‘When You’re Gone’.”
Treating the evening as very much a storytelling mode of opportunity, Richard finishes and says, “I’m gonna sing my favorite songs from my albums tonight. But, we should probably get one of those pussy ballads out of the way!” With that said, and the laughter dying down, Richard goes into ‘One Thing Left,’ which features a beautiful cello solo towards the end. Richard is then joined on stage by his pianist, Steve Hornbeak (a fellow recording artist, producer and songwriter). “So, I’m thinking we should sing a more upbeat song,” he ponders aloud. “A fast song. So, I’m gonna sing a song about a girl who gets murdered!” After a shout from the crowd that it’s a fitting song as we’re in Detroit, he laughs, admits the comment was sadly funny (because he didn‘t say it), and then continues to tell us how it was his wife who made him record the next song we hear, ‘Hazard.’
Backed by some video images for the song, once done the crowd clap the loudest so far this evening. “Is everybody doing alright so far,” he inquires. “I want to bring us all up to date. I just heard my new song on the radio the other day. I was driving and it was sandwiched between Nickelback and Lady Gaga! It’s called ‘When You Loved Me’.” Having played that he moves to the piano, reveals he’s going to play a couple of songs (after telling everyone he couldn’t even actually play the thing!) and that he thinks we’ll all know them - but doesn’t want us to sing along to them! “I write songs for other people. I wrote this one with Linda Thompson.” When nobody mutters anything in the audience, he adds, “She was Elvis’ girlfriend,” to which their gasps suddenly become audible. “I don’t sing like Josh Groban, just so you know,” he adds, before heading into ‘To Where You Are.’ Moving back afterwards to his guitar, Steve back on piano behind him, he continues: “Somebody in this room wrote the number one song currently in America! I won’t say who it is, but his initials are Richard Marx,” he laughs. “There was ‘Better Life,’ ‘Everybody,‘ and now this new song, ‘Long Hot Summer’.”
Unaccompanied by strings this time, the song is country hit pop culture personified and has the audience back up on their feet applauding once again. “I was in the car the other day,” he continues, “and Katy Perry came on. And who doesn’t love these Katy Perry songs. So, this is super poppy, but there’s something about the song and the lyrics. So, I wrote a string arrangement for ‘The One That Got Away’ - I hope you like it.” Funnily enough though, the fact he seemingly can’t keep a straight face going into the opening lyrics is proven when he stumbles (over a tempo issue) and has to begin it all again!
Moving on and we next get a video of his three sons (the Marx Brothers … get it?!) singing and playing drums, bass and guitar to a new rockier pop song of Richard’s called ‘Save Me.’ “My three sons are all really talented. I wrote this next song for an album I’m gonna put out next year. They all played on it and all sang on it. But, we took my vocals out the mix. So I’m gonna sing those live now.” Come the songs end and, once again, the applause levels rise. “I’m gonna skip generations now,” he explains. “This is a song I wrote about my dad.” Richard then talks about his dad, growing up with him as a professional jingle writer (Raisin Bran and Chicken Of The Sea), and then ends with, “He was the coolest, greatest dad ever. I hit the dad lottery. I want to sing this for him.” And so the beautiful, truly heartfelt ‘Through My Veins’ is then brought forth. Bathed in red, the song is emotional to the core and has Richard barely able to look at the image of his dad on the screen come its end. We then get the rockier, poppier ‘The Way She Loves Me,’ a song that has everybody handclapping along. Without strings it is pure acoustic heaven.
“I’m gonna do a new song for you now,” Richard reveals. “I know, people are like 'Oh shit,' but for this one I want you singing along. I know you are now all sitting there wondering how you can sing along to a song you’ve never heard before, but it’s easy, trust me.” He then teaches us two 'Naa-naan-naan Naa-naan-naan' chorus lines and we’re off, following him anywhere his wink leads us throughout ‘Over My Head.’ Steve comes back again to the piano and Richard tells us he’s going to sing a song he wrote for someone else. “I got a phone call and was asked if I could write a song for *NSYNC. I said sure, wrote it, and the next day they said they loved it.” He then goes on to tell us that they flew him to the small recording studio in Florida where he spent three days and three nights recording 'This I Promise You’ with them.
Now seated back on his stool, Richard informs us that he’s “… now gonna do two songs back to back,” before launching quickly into snippets of both ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ and then ‘Poker Face’! Introducing the former as his first number one single, ‘Hold On To The Nights,' the latter as ‘Now And Forever,’ the double shot of acoustic Marx is wonderful. The latter having featured yet another fine cello solo, he talks a bit about audience memberstaking photos. And how he is okay with the fact. That they should definitely do it. And that they should record the show too if they wanted! Or, as Richard himself puts it, “If you got ’em, whip ’em out!”
“I wrote this song when I was 19. About the first girl I ever had,” he laughs, before giving us the last song of the main set, ‘Should’ve Known Better.’ Leaving the stage thereafter following a standing ovation, he is quickly back. “I know how hard it is to be in the business today. So thank you all for coming out and spending whatever money you spent tonight and being with me. I really, really appreciate it.” With that, he picks up his guitar and brings us a wondrous version of ‘Don’t Mean Nothing,’ before sliding gently into the show closer, the always-will-be-known-for pussy ballad, ‘Right Here Waiting.’
Review & Photos by: Russell A. Trunk