“We’re going to soft-rock the living shit out of you."
Wine, cheese, and Richard Marx: three things that age well.
For more than 35 years, Grammy-winning singer, songwriter, producer, and best-selling author Richard Marx has seduced audiences with his captivating melodies and heartfelt lyricism delivered with a tender eloquence unique to 80’s soft-rock.
“We’re going to soft-rock the living shit out of you,” Marx proclaimed during the show. Ushering into St Kilda’s Palais Theatre, it was surprising to see such a diverse crowd. Sure, there were the women who ditched their kids for the night to fawn over the 80’s heartthrob and plenty of couples on date night, but there were also groups of men downing beers and even the occasional youngster.
Supporting Marx was bandmate J.Blynn, also known by his stage name Dandelion Head. One look at the guy, and the name makes sense. Playing songs from his upcoming album Blue Dream, recorded in an Eltham mud shack beneath the Eucalyptus trees, Dandelion Head’s brief set bridged the mystic worlds of folk and psychedelia. Unfortunately, the audience carried on talking throughout the entirety of his performance.
The show began with a humblebrag video montage of Richard Marx’s career highlights where the celebrity endorsements and records held successfully served to electrify the crowd. To bring you up to speed; Richard Marx has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide, with his first seven singles reaching the Top 5 on the Billboard charts; a record he still holds today.
Amid the outpouring of applause, Richard Marx walked onstage and launched into Believe in Me, a track from his most recent album Songwriter and before long the audience was spilling out into the aisles. By the time he got to Endless Summer Nights, it was clear we had a party on our hands. After raising his martini to the crowd, Marx declared that “tonight, there are no rules” and encouraged his audience to take as many photos and videos as they wanted, admitting that he got into show biz because he “wanted people’s attention.” He even encouraged fans to approach the stage, an announcement that reverted middle-aged women into teenagers and saw Marx in constant friction with venue staff and security.
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Early highlights included Angelia (sans 1990’s mullet), and Same Heartbreak, Different Day; a new track co-written by Richard’s son Lucas. Later on, we were treated to a touching collaborative performance of When You Loved Me with Marx singing along with his three talented sons Brandon, Lucas, and Jesse via pre-recorded studio footage.
Throughout the evening Marx indulged us with stories about John Farnham and how he suggested that Richard name his youngest son ‘Skid’ and stories about Olivia Newton-John and the power of manifestation. He even broke into the Xandu’s hit Suddenly. Most memorable though was his story about why Bryan Adams hasn’t spoken to him since sharing some ill advice about drinking a vocal concoction (lemon juice, ginger and cayenne pepper) before a show in Milwaukee many years ago.
In the middle of the set came the acoustic portion of the evening where Richard sat alone on a stool, acoustic guitar in hand, and delivered a beautifully reinvented version of Too Late to Say Goodbye, as well as Hold On to the Nights and Now & Forever.
Renowned for his songwriting, Richard Marx’s catalogue of music includes many hits penned for other artists so it’s only natural that he dedicates some time to flaunting his credits. Keith Urban’s Long, Hot Summer and a rocked-up version of NSYNC’s This I Promise You were cool additions to the setlist and thanks to an audience request we got a few bars from Vixen’s power ballad Edge of a Broken Heart.
By the time the encore came around, everyone was out of their seats. The alluring darkness of Marx’s murder mystery Hazard produced one of the biggest responses of the night. Meanwhile, Satisfied and Should’ve Known Better electrified the room and though you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the soft-rock genre who rocks harder than Marx his speciality is ballads and he saved his best for last. Sitting at the piano, Marx serenaded the audience with his smash hit Right Here Waiting. Throughout the night, Marx’s rich, gravelly voice filled the room, but it was at its most profound as he poured his heart out during the concert’s heartfelt finale.
From watching him live, it’s clear that Richard Marx’s legacy will be his contribution to songwriting, but it’s his genuine sense of humour and sincere relationship with his devoted audience that will keep fans coming back to see him time and time again.