From the Pit to the Crowd: Richard Marx

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For those who have been following my review series, you probably noticed the majority of the shows I review are hard rock and heavy metal. But, when I receive a very unique opportunity, my inner self was screaming for joy. On Tuesday, March 7th I attended Richard Marx performing an acoustic set on tour. I always loved his music when I was growing up. Richard Marx is the first solo artist to have his first seven singles all reach the Top 5 of Billboard’s Top 100 singles chart. He is also a Grammy Award winner in 2004 for “Dance With My Father” that he shared with Luther Vandross. So, yes, I was quite excited to see him perform.

On Tuesday, June 9th I arrived at Hard Rock Live Orlando around 7 PM. Hard Rock Live Orlando Resides on Universal Studios property. It’s one of the larger venues I hadn’t photographed at yet. I picked up my photo credentials and ticket at the box office and then waited for the doors to open. First, they let in all of the fans who were doing a meet and greet with Richard Marx. Security was kind enough to let me inside right after. Once inside I noticed they actually had seats on the arena floor and no pit area. I asked a security member if they knew where photographers would be photographing. He wasn’t sure so the security member showed me where my seat was and then found one of the managers. The manager stated we’d just be shooting in front of the crowd for three songs and then we could shoot from anywhere else in the area, except upstairs, as it was closed off. I thanked him and then prepped my gear.

Kara, one of my photographer friends, showed up with her friend who was attending the show. Kara and I made our way to the right side of the stage for Richard Marx to arrive. It wasn’t too long before the lights dimmed and a voice announced Richard Marx to the stage. The crowd hooted and hollered as Richard Marx walked on stage with a guitar in hand. He smiled, waved, made a gesture over his heart and took a quick bow before he started off into “Endless Summer Nights”. He sounded just as good as he did when he first started his career.

Photographing Richard was definitely different. Since there were people sitting directly in the front row before the stage, Kara and I tried our best to be conscientious and not block their view as best as we could. There was another photographer with us as well. I went over to the left side to shoot there first and Kara stayed on the right. The lighting was great, but the best part, is unlike House of Blues’ six foot stage, the stage at Hard Rock Live Orlando was probably half the height.

Richard then followed up with “Take This Heart”. I went to the right side of the stage to snap off a few shots and then moved back to the left when he followed up with “Satisfied”. After our three was done, Kara and I went to the back to take a few photos and off to the side as well just for some different angles.

By far one of the things I truly enjoyed about the performance was the intimacy. Richard told the crowd a number of stories about these songs before he sang them. It reminded me of VH1s “Storytellers” series they had on TV. On the show, the artist would tell the stories on how the songs they were performing were created. While Kara and I were standing to the left of the crowd, Richard was telling the story behind “Hazard”. He explained how he thought it would be cool to create a murder mystery story in a 4 minute song and how he had this huge background for the town, the girl named Mary who dies, the weird guy who is the narrator (himself) and how surprised he was how many people loved the song. He then explained how so many people asked “Was that story autobiographical?” The crowd laughed at that especially from the expression on his face. And he said he got asked it so many times he started saying, “Yeah I totally murdered that girl.” To once again, the crowd laughed and applauded. As he sang the song, he had video screens on each side of the stage that showed the lyrics to the song.

He then went over to the piano on stage and performed “Turn Off The Night” which sounded beautiful in the venue. After taking some shots of him at the piano, Kara and I went to our seats to enjoy the rest of the show. Richard then decided to do some cover songs and tell some stories to go along with them. The most touching is the story behind “Dance With My Father” that he wrote for Luther Vandross. After Luther had finished his vocal for the song, he ended up having a stroke in his home. The song won Grammy Award for Best Song in 2004 and then he passed away the next year on July 1st. Richard explained how he never felt right performing the song at his shows after Luther passed on until recently where he realized performing the song would be honoring his dear friend. And after the song was finished a picture of Luther and Richard was shown on a screen above him.

Richard also performed “Long Hot Summer”, which he wrote for Keith Urban, where they showed video of Keith and Richard performing on stage together. He also performed “This I Promise You” for NSYNC. He also told the story on how NSYNC asked him to write a song for him, which is did in 24 hours. And then loved it and wanted him to produce it. So he came out to Orlando to a remote location, where 100 female fans still found, so they snuck NSYNC through the back while he walked in the front. After they finished recording at 4 AM, there were 200 female fans outside, so once again snuck NSYNC out the back while he walked out the front. And as he was walking back to the car, a beautiful young woman saw him and said, “Are you Richard Marx?” He replied, “Yes” while being short of breath, to which the audience laughed. And the woman replied, “My mom loves you!” At that point the audience lost it and laughed hysterically and applauded.

He followed up with a very amazing performance of “Save Me”. He performed the song to three videos of his sons, who all provided the musical instruments and backing vocals while Richard played the acoustic guitar. It was amazing to see how well he blended and timed the performance with the recordings of his sons. And you could see his sons musical talent doesn’t fall far from the tree. He then decided to try something completely different. He unplugged his guitar, stepped away from the microphone, and sang “Angelia” direct from the stage. The quiet in the room was chilling and the fact that he could get his voice to carry through the venue was stunning.

Richard followed up with “Should Have Known Better” and then finished his set with “Eyes on Me” that he wrote for his wife Daisy Fuentes. He walked off stage as the crowd stood and applauded. He came back a moment later to encore the crowd with “Right Here Waiting” and the song I was waiting to hear “Don’t Mean Nothing” his very first career single. He then thanked the Orlando crowd and left the stage.

This was an amazing night to hear great portion of Richard Marx’s greatest hits, the stories behind some of them, and to feel connected to him personally with those stories he shared. Richard Marx is still going strong vocally, musically, and I see no signs of him slowing down. This tour is definitely one to see if you can catch it and I look forward to his next performance in Orlando.