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[Review] Richard Marx @ NEX, Newcastle 01/03/2023

Back in 1987, when Saturday morning tv was filled with the latest music videos, a handsome young man appeared on the screen. He was the epitome of a late 1980s pop star with a flowing mane cut into a designer mullet and the voice of an angel. Young women’s hearts melted for this lad (including mine), but he was so much more than just another pretty face, he had real talent, too. Single after single reached the Top 10, and this success followed through into the 1990s (and beyond). Even grunge couldn’t dim this man’s star. And to this day, he is the only male artist to have written songs that have reached the number 1 position over the past 4 decades. A song of the year Grammy Award winner in 2004, Triple Platinum status, in excess of 30 Million in record sales, 26 Top 20 singles, 17 Top 10, 14 Number 1s, this man is a powerhouse. So when I woke up to the news that I was going to be attending his concert in Newcastle (my hometown) tonight, I was more than just a bit excited. What a way to start the month! 

Introducing Mr Richard Marx, an Adult Contemporary Pop-Rock American Singer / Songwriter / Musician / Producer. He has written and co-written hit songs for artists like Kenny Rogers, Nsync, Luther Vandross and our very own, Keith Urban, as well as a slew of chart-toppers of his own.

Arriving at the NEX complex in Newcastle, NSW, the line to enter was long due to this concert being sold out, but the staff did their best to get us all inside and seated quickly and efficiently for an 8pm sharp start. 

Right on time the support act entered the stage, acoustic guitar slung across his body. He introduced himself as Dandelion Head, otherwise known as J Blynn, an American, now Melbourne-based guitarist / singer / songwriter who was recently a featured artist on Rage. 

J is also Richard Marx’ guitarist. As Dandelion Head, he played a 5 song acoustic set including his latest song, Sad Eyes

Then it was a quick outfit change and he returned to the stage with a drummer, bass guitarist and Mr Richard Marx himself, in tow. Showtime!

The main event started with a video montage of Richards achievements, and then the band opened with a song from the latest album, Songwriter, titled Believe In Me, which led into Rush Street hit, Take This Heart, followed by Endless Summer Nights. At this point a lady from the audience approached the stage in front of Marx, holding a sign saying that it was her birthday and could she get a selfie with him. He obliged happily, also signing the album cover she handed him. He told the crowd that he got into the music business to get attention so please take photos and videos, upload them to you tube and social media, do whatever makes you happy, this is your night. Then he crooned the popular ballad, Angelia. Marx then introduced Same Heartbreak, Different Day, telling the audience that it is a special song to him as he co-wrote it with his second son, Lucas, it’s from the latest album and then Marx remained on stage while his band left. He explained that he had written a song for his 2014 album Now And Forever The Ballads that all 3 of his sons had individually told him that they liked, so he had asked them to play this song for this tour via a video recording. He spoke proudly of his talented sons and then a video of them playing When You Loved Me began while Marx accompanied on guitar and sang the song. Afterwards he stopped to take a sip of a strange lemon concoction drink and told another amusing story this time about Canadian singer Bryan Adams and this same drink which apparently is great for singers but also is used as a detox. The crowd laughed and next up were hit songs Too Late To Say Goodbye, which Richard suddenly added to the setlist on the fly – I guess he felt this audience was a Repeat Offender kinda crowd. Following that he played Hold On To The Nights, and Now and Forever. Richard stopped to chat with the crowd again, telling us how he had co-written one of Keith Urban’s popular songs and had worked with American Boy Band, Nsync in the early 2000s, which was the segway into him playing Long Hot Summer by Urban and This I Promise You by Nsync. The set closed out with Marx’ ode about the music industry, Don’t Mean Nothing.

The band left the stage and the crowd clapped and called for an encore. I mentally counted at least half a dozen more “hits” that were yet to be played so I waited for the band to return. First up was a song from the 2020 album, Limitless, accompanied by a video montage clip of Richard and his wife, Daisy Fuentes. The sweet and romantic Front Row Seat.  Marx introduced the popular chart topping, Hazard accompanied by the original video clip being played on the screen, moving seamlessly into Satisfied where the audience sang along loudly as Marx asked us to sing back to him. Should’ve Known Better got the crowd up and out of their seats and dancing in the aisle and singing along. Then it was time for the final song of the night, Marx sat at the keyboard and began to play Right Here Waiting, everyone was singing along with him, not wanting this night to end.

Richard Marx is an artist who knows and understands his fanbase. He’s here to promote his new album, Songwriter, released on September 30, 2022, but he also knows we’ve all come along to hear certain “hits” and he doesn’t disappoint. During the show, people in the audience yelled out thank yous, cheers and encouragement as Richard entertained, performing a cracking setlist made up of fan favourites from the 1987 debut Self Titled album right through to 1994s Paid Vacation and peppered the setlist with some newer content, engaging with the audience by telling funny anecdotes, using self-deprecating humour about ageing, and heartwarming stories about his family. His show included several video montages that included his family which added to the presentation while also telling the story of the songs. Marx spoke often during the show, regaleing the audience with stories and mentioning his Australian friends Keith Urban and John Farnham, and wishing his old friend well. Richard Marx fans are their fans, too and Marx is savvy enough to realise that and elicits the response he desired. Connection made. His main audience are fellow GenXers who have grown up, and older, with Marx, they “get” him. The whole vibe of the night felt different to most other shows I’ve attended. It was pretty low key, laid back, and relaxed, a safe space. Maybe that’s just Newcastle, maybe it was the 75/25 female to male ratio audience, but I believe that it also had a lot to do with Richard and his band.  And hearing these old songs again, it felt like a familiar place, a warm hug from my past, from a simpler time, come to revisit. 24 hours later and I’m still smiling at the new memories of last night, and getting to share this experience with my brother made it even more special to me. He loved the show, too.

Marx is the original Mr Nice Guy, he playfully accepted wolf whistles from the audience with good humour, obliged a fan with a selfie and autograph during the show, and encouraged everyone to have a good time, and to sing loudly with him. You go to a Richard Marx show to have a fun time and you get it – in spades, walking away at the end of the night with a big ole smile on your face. And it’s not just Marx that brings that joy, his band clearly love their job. They smile the whole time they are performing, it’s a contagious happiness.

The only real downside to the night was that it ended after about 2 hours of pure enjoyment and entertainment. It’s no wonder that this entire tour is sold out. I am definitely going to the concert the next time Richard Marx hits our shores again. 

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