Concert Review: Richard Marx at the Bankhead Theater

Last night I finally got to see Richard Marx play live. It only took 21 years.

Marx was my first musician crush. (Proof that I was never cool.) His Rush Street got me through the worst heartache of my life. And "Don't Mean Nothin'" prepared me for my current work as a screenwriter. (People always ask why I'm not more excited when someone says they want to make a movie from one of my scripts. I say, "Because it doesn't mean anything until it's in writing and signed.")

I was the nerd who cited Marx lyrics in a school newspaper debate. I used "Hazard" as the jumping off point for a soap opera-like story I used to write in a red notebook. My main character was named Mark Aaron Bradford, and he'd had to flee his hometown after being accused of murder, so he went into the city and had to take questionable jobs, and he was sexually harassed by a woman named Carole, and then moved in with a suburban family . . . At least, that's how I remember it going. It was a big hit in certain circles; I would write an "episode" (or chapter, I guess), and the notebook would get handed round so everyone could read it, and then it would come back to me and I'd write the next part. Good times.

This is just meant to show how influenced I was by Marx and his music. In the summer of 1993, I really wanted to see him in concert, but the week he was going to be in town was the week my parents had planned for us to visit my grandparents in Alaska. I begged to be allowed to stay home, but no. I thought it was unimaginably cruel of my parents to make me fly halfway across the U.S. (and part of Canada!) when my crush was going to be so close.

And now, 21 years later . . . Finally! I was able to see Richard Marx play. Not in some big concert venue, but in an intimate little setting. Just Marx, no band. He had his acoustic guitar and his piano, and he stripped down a number of his songs—they lend themselves to that; Marx said he was playing them more or less as they'd been written, rather than the "after" studio version. It was lovely and unique and a worthwhile experience.

So often I go to concerts and think, considering the songs are played pretty much exactly as they sound on the radio, I might as well have saved my money. There's nothing special in that experience, at least not to me. Some say it's the crowd and the fans that make it special, but . . . The crowd and the fans really mean you're going to have to stand all evening if you want to be able to see the stage. And they mean that you'll be listening to the guy next to you sing when you really just want to hear the musicians. So unless there's a big show, a spectacle of some kind (like, you know, Pink Floyd) . . .

OR. Every now and then an artist goes smaller instead of bigger, and that's nice too. In Marx's case, it worked very well. He's good with a crowd, has a good sense of humor. He played a number of his biggest hits, and some songs he'd written for other artists (Luther Vandross, Keith Urban, NSYNC). He played some new stuff, too, and that was exciting to hear.

When you consider the length and breadth of his career, Marx has done well in an industry that typically chews up and spits out the "latest thing." He's been smart and savvy enough to write for others, to produce others' work. He's worked the system quite well, and it was really nice to see that he still has such core fans willing to come out and see him play.

As for me, I was just so glad to finally, finally check this one off my list. I'd have been happy no matter what, but Marx put on a great little show. So I thank him for making my teenage dream come true, even if it was 20+ years later than planned.

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