Richard Marx’s Intimate Evening at Boulton Center Bay Shore, NY 2-20-16

From the Windy City of Chicago, Illinois, Richard Marx was thrust into the entertainment world from a young age. In fact, his father wrote some of the most famous jingles associated with America’s favorite brands including Wrigley’s Doublemint chewing gum, Kellogg’s Raisin Bran, and Dial Soap. With a talent for writing music clearly in the family’s jeans, Richard Marx eagerly opted to pursue a career in the recording industry with high hopes. Taking a working class approach to making his dreams come true, early in his career he was in and out of the studio with everyone from Madonna and Luther Vandross until he finally had earned his chance in 1986 upon signing with EMI/Manhattan Records. The record deal followed with his self-titled debut album in 1987, an album that spawned four hit singles while achieving three times platinum status. Quite an amazing start for an artist, it was only the beginning for Marx as he would go on to dominate the radio charts through the latter part of the ’80s into the ’90s with a slew of hits that are still spun on radio all these years later. Selling over thirty million records, written some of the most memorable songs in modern music, and produced for other big name artists, Marx is perhaps one of the most underrated musicians of the past three decades.

Still extremely active writing his own music, as well as collaborating with others, Marx last released a solo studio record, Beautiful Goodbye, in 2014 while he continues to delight audiences with live performances around the world. Looking for new and different ways to keep his creative juices flowing at this point in his career, Marx likes to take it back to basics with an acoustic guitar and perhaps a piano to perform special unplugged concerts here and there. A chance for fans to get up close and personal with the music and the creator, Marx has made it a habit of bringing this one-man show to the quaint, relaxed, and friendly YMCA Boulton Center for the Performing Arts down in Bay Shore, New York. A hidden gem nestled on a revitalized main street of this Long Island village, Marx returned for the first time since 2014 to play to a sold out crowd on Saturday, February 20, 2016. A mild night for February, people of all ages came out to see the performance, some returning for a second and third time, others ready to see exactly what the Marx acoustic experience was all about.

Wasting no time, as soon as the lights went down Marx walked out to a enthusiastic room as he sat on a stool center stage with candles lit around him. Beginning with debut single, “Don’t Mean Nothing,” he managed to take the guitar-driven Rock tune and keep its energy level high with just his voice and the acoustic guitar. Having everyone’s attention, he would follow with 1991’s “The Way She Loves Me” as well as 1988’s good-vibe “Endless Summer Nights.” Quickly putting the audience under his spell, Marx would mix in plenty of conversation in between songs, showing not only does he still have a fantastic voice, but a delightful sense of humor. Taking the edge off for fans, Marx’s constant joking around and personal approach made it feel as if everyone was sitting in his living room for a private show. It was so much so that Marx even said it felt like a family reunion, but he was actually enjoying it.

With so many hits to go through, he would mix them about the set with no dull moment to be found. One early one would be “Now and Forever,” mostly likely a wedding song for thousands of couples. Attentive to the subtle textures of the guitar combined with Marx’s warm vocals, all eyes were fixed on Marx to the final note of the track. Being sure to keep the mood loose, he would then go on to tell the story behind the next song, saying he spent an enormous amount of time writing it, only to feel in the end it was not any good. Fortunately, his instinct was wrong and the song would end up going number one in 1991, and it is known by everyone as “Hazard.” A tale about murder, Marx stated that some people have sincerely asked him if the song was autobiographical. Initially baffled, Marx stated he now just plays it up and tells those in question, yes it is, and once again, he had the room laughing hilariously. As for the music, when he played the song, it was just as haunting as the studio recording, but without the full instrumentation, just his voice carrying the mysterious feelings as a video on a back screen accompanied.

Moving right along, he would put down the guitar and position himself behind the piano tucked toward the back of the stage. With a spotlight fixed on him, he played a newer song from Beautiful Goodbye called “Turn Off the Night.” At this point, he would invite everyone to take as many photos and videos of his performance as they like, regardless of venue rules. Elate by the performer’s request, the cameras immediately came out and soon the flashes were going off like a big time Rock-n-Roll concert at a massive arena. Enjoying it all, Marx would go into the song that is reminiscent of one of Marx’s older hits. Hearing the cut live had everyone applauding and perhaps had some pondering on picking up a copy of the album if they had not already done so. Conversating more with the audience Marx went on to talk about his sons, Brandon, Jesse, and Lucas, as he playfully referred to them as The Marx Brothers. With the youngest, Jesse, at twenty-two; Lucas at twenty-three, and Brandon at twenty-five, he explained how they are grown men, as well as musicians too. Following in dad’s footsteps, they are following the musician’s career path and this is when Marx would go into a song he recorded with his boys called “Save Me.” A track originally released on his 2008 album Emotional Remains, Marx would perform along with a video of his sons on the large screen behind him for a full Rock band luster. A very cool interaction, everyone applauded as Marx smiled as a rightfully proud father.

On the subject of fathers, the mood became very sentimental at this point as Marx spoke about his very close friendship with the late, great Luther Vandross. He spoke of how Vandross asked him to collaborate on a song with him. That song would be one very personal for Vandross and it would end up being the big hit “Dance With My Father.” Taking a seat back behind the piano, Marx brought the track to life as he sent shivers down the backs of many spectators who no doubt have also lost and miss a mother or father. He would continue to speak very highly of Vandross and expressed how much he misses his dear friend as well. An extremely touching and honest Marx, he kept spirits high while he went on to play songs he helped co-write, including Vince Gill’s “Take Me Down” and Keith Urban’s “Long Hot Summer.”

Explaining how he has dabbled in a variety of genres with a long list of artists, Marx would prove he could even write a Country song of his own as he went into the quite comical song “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away?” With lyrics that pushed all the right buttons, Marx had everyone chuckling, even himself as he played on. Transitioning until the final segment of the night, Marx would go into 1989’s “Satisfied” before going really unplugged as he stepped away from the microphone and unwired his acoustic guitar to stand on the ledge of the stage to sing a fan-favorite, “Angelia.” As intimate as it gets, the moments felt in between the song were magical. He would then close out the set with another normally guitar-driven rocker, “Should’ve Known Better,” where everyone was bobbing their head along. Waving goodbye, the sold out crowd roared for more, and within a minute Marx returned to find his place behind the keys once more for the finale of mega hit “Right Here Waiting For You.” Again inviting the audience participation, many sang the words in unison, wonderfully capping off the performance.

To say Marx’s set was impressive would be an understatement. It would be easy for an artist to mail it in and just blast all their hits and call it a day. Marx actually took the time to engage his audience, make them feel like they were welcome, and leave them with memories they will not forget. For those who had seen the show before, they were happy to be back, for those new, they are bound to be back when Marx comes to town again in the future. Until then, fans all over the global should keep an eye out for Marx’s tour dates with shows slated from now until June.


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