What better way to spend the night before the Super Bowl than by driving two hours to see Richard Marx perform with an orchestra at a casino?
It always amazes me how people seem to forget just how many hits Richard Marx has.
According to the always reliable Wikipedia, Marx was the first solo artist "to have his first seven singles hit the 'Top 5' on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart."
After the Marx-penned, Keith Urban hit "Long Hot Summer" reached #1 just last year, a Marx written or co-written song topped the charts in four different decades.
And did I mention he's sold over THIRTY MILLION records? So enough with the mullet jokes already... Let's cut the guy some slack.
Marx performed a mixture of his own hits and those he's written for others over the course of two hours Saturday night and was accompanied by a twenty piece orchestra (I believe he was backed, and quite ably at that, by Chicago's very own Bill Porter Orchestra).
But it wasn't just his songs on display in Michigan City, it was also his sense of humor.
Throughout the course of the evening, Marx was quite funny. His at times self-deprecating wit was equal parts funny and acerbic.
A bit of a rambunctious crowd for an acoustic show, the obligatory nod to Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird" came early (after only the first song of the evening).
Marx handled it with humor.
"If you yelled out my songs that would be good. I say this with love: Friends don't let friends yell out 'Freebird.'"
But Richard wasn't done.
"You yell it out and everyone in the room goes 'What a dick!' In this case, even a woman can be a dick." added Marx to a woman named Patty (the progenitor of the "Freebird" faux pas).
He teased the crowd with a few bars of the song before moving on and, while funny, I could never quite tell if there was maybe, kind of, sort of just a hint of bitterness to the humorous rebuff. Though sometimes, in all fairness, a performer needs to put a stop to that stuff early so it doesn't continue. He did.
Marx told a story about adding "Hazard" to his 1991 album Rush Street (yes, Marx is a Chicagoan) strictly in an effort to prove his wife wrong for once after she guaranteed it would be a hit. As Marx informed the crowd, all it went on to do was hit number one in thirteen countries. Wrong again, Richard. We always are.
On the flipside, he described his reaction to unexpectedly cracking the top twenty in 2011 with "When You Loved Me" saying "It went top twenty! Sh-t man, I'll take top twenty!" Describing a moment when he heard the song on the radio while driving he added "On that day, I was sandwiched between Lady Gaga and Nickelback and it was awesome!"
To a fan who yelled out that she was attending her tenth Richard Marx concert, he joked, "It's your tenth concert? I feel like I owe you money. Well, I want this to be special... So, I'm gonna take it slow."
He even told a story about an *NYSNC fan who approached to tell him that her Mom was a HUGE fan... which I could relate to because my Mom is a HUGE fan (and owns a signed copy of Repeat Offender).
There was more.
"This is a hit I recorded when I had a big fluffy mullet." That was his intro for "Angelia" as an obligatory picture of said mullet appeared on the venue's video screens to the crowd's amusement.
And finally, in introducing the first two songs of his encore ("Hold on to the Nights" and "Now and Forever"), Marx, with tongue firmly in cheek (I think), implored the crowd "These are two number ones and I'm gonna do 'em back to back. If you guys know either of these songs, don't join in because you'll ruin it."
So you get the idea. Richard Marx is a funny guy. He played a lot of music on Saturday though too.
As you've probably gathered, the show had a bit of a "VH-1 Storytellers" vibe to it so it's important to note that the sound at Blue Chip's Stardust Event Center was outstanding. You could understand every word of stage banter. That's not always the case at a packed live show but it was on Saturday in Michigan City.
Opening with "Endless Summer Nights," Marx was in fine voice all night and he tore through a setlist that included most of his biggest hits but also a lot of newer material playing acoustic guitar and piano along the way.
Richard told stories about his Dad (a jazz musician and writer of many famous commercial jingles... not to mention the fact he produced the Chicago Blackhawks' theme "Here Come the Hawks" with his Dick Marx Orchestra in 1968) and indulged the crowd with a cappella renditions of both the Raisin Bran and Chicken of the Sea jingles.
But it was his heartfelt words about his father (Dick Marx passed away in 1997) and his description of him as his best friend that made "Through My Veins" one of my favorite songs of the evening. Marx sat down at the piano for the ballad based around a haunting piano part not unlike that in the chorus of "Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails. I had never heard the song before and it was outstanding.
The family affair continued as Marx played and sang along to a video of his three kids supplying supplementary drums, guitar/vocals and keyboard to the new song "Save Me."
A searing solo on cello (courtesy of Jocelyn Davis) brought the crowd to its feet following "Now and Forever" before Marx brought the evening to a close with "Don't Mean Nothing" and "Right Here Waiting."
- "Endless Summer Nights"
- "Take This Heart"
- "When You're Gone"
- "When You Loved Me"
- "To Where You Are" (A song written by Marx for Josh Groban)
- "Over My Head"
- "Through My Veins"
- "Save Me"
- "The One That Got Away" (Katy Perry cover)
- "This I Promise You" (A song written by Marx for *NSYNC)
- "Should've Known Better"
- "Hold on to the Nights"
- "Now and Forever"
- "Don't Mean Nothing"
- "Right Here Waiting"