The Hard Rock Rocksino sported a pair of concerts this weekend that couldn’t have been more different yet bookended each other in such a way that made for an incredible weekend of live music. Friday evening’s Doobie Brothers show proved that you can’t keep an old rocker down; the venue was sold out and the place thumped to the vibe of the ’70s icons.
Saturday night’s show, showcasing hitmaker Richard Marx‘s prodigious talents, pulled in a completely different crowd. Comprised mainly of swooning middle-aged women and, yes, there was a plenty of swooning happening there, the singer/songwriter took us on an acoustical tour of his career.
Starting the evening off with a warm welcome and a promise to help “get the guys laid,” he acknowledged the mostly-female crowd that had dragged their husbands and boyfriends along to the Rocksino to hear some music from their halcyon days full of Aquanet, leggings and late ’80s Teen Beat magazines.
Marx, a celebrated Grammy-winning songwriter, proved long ago that he wasn’t just another long-mullet, pretty face. He was the first solo artist whose first seven singles charted in the top five, an amazing feat by any standard. While no longer producing many of his own hits, he still writes music for other artists, notably the Country scene. His fourteenth and last hit, “Long Hot Summer” was written for Toby Keith.
Alternately standing behind a mic stand and sitting on a stool with his acoustic guitar, Marx gave us anecdotes from his four-decade career. When seeing the abundance of females snapping photos with their cell phones, he stopped the story he was telling and told us all to shoot away. “After all,” he said, “I got into show business because I wanted people’s attention.”
And that he got. Starting with “Endless Summer Night,” he put a nice low key spin on the older tune. An acoustic show can go one of two ways: fans either love the stripped-down versions of the song or they rebel at a new take on a familiar ditty. Those in attendance loved his take on the material; the howling approval after he wrapped up “Endless” was rousing. He segued into a few of his “lesser” known songs, cued into “Satisfied,” another crowd pleaser, and then offered “Hold On To The Night” and “Now and Forever” mid set.
A brief segue onto the piano let Marx showcase some of the songs he wrote for other artists. He gave a touching tribute to the late Luther Vandross, a friend of his who shared Grammy gold with “Dance With My Father,” winner of a slew of 2004 Grammy awards.
Wrapping up with his set with “Angelia,” “Should’ve Known Better” and “Long Hot Summer,” he then returned for a three song encore with “When You Loved Me,” “Don’t Mean Nothing,” and “Right Here Waiting.”
This guy’s got everything: He’s an amazing songwriter, a gifted singer and a guy who knows how to work a crowd. His natural charm propels him over the top and, yep, makes him an easy target for those that have a lesser amount of the traits described above. But give credit where credit’s due: Marx is a hell of a performer and if you’re a music fan you owe it to yourself to catch one of his shows the next time he swings through the 216.