Richard Marx's concert in Kuala Lumpur almost turned into a hazard.
Minutes before Marx was scheduled to perform at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center, police had destroyed what looked like DIY explosives outside the venue (which later turned out to be harmless glass bottles).
Hazard, of course, was one of Marx’s worldwide hits, which he sang later in the set.
“It was about a girl who was murdered in Nebraska. I thought it was stupid. I wrote it because as a boy, I loved mystery novels. Since then, I’ve had fans asking if it’s autobiographical – like I killed a girl and have been running and hiding behind stages all over the world," he quips, flashing his trademark smile which audiences saw a lot of that night.
Despite the rain, rush hour traffic and the bomb scare, some 3,500 romantics turned up to catch the balladeer live in action. It was Marx's fifth visit to KL.
The Grammy-winner, who’s sold over 30 million albums worldwide, was in his element – crooning to adoring fans who have been Right Here Waiting (sorry, I couldn’t resist) for his return.
Unfortunately for the opening act No Tyra, many were fashionably late to the concert, but those who made it in time for Marx's warm up piece Endless Summer Nights (apt, considering the hellish humidity these days) didn’t need help loosening up. From the second the trim and toned songwriter, music producer, and singer took to the stage in a suave white shirt and black waistcoat, he had them eating out of his hands.
“I’m very proud of you. You’ll do anything I say huh?” Marx asked the crowd. Going by the loud cheers, he needn’t have bothered asking. Promising to do songs he “could remember” from a three-decade-long catalogue, Marx kept to his word with Take This Heart.
“Like you, I go to concerts too. I know it’s alright to play one or two new songs, but you want to hear the hits right? That’s okay because I like to sing them and that’s why I Keep Coming Back,” he joked before breaking into the song. Clever.
Performing 15 of his greatest hits and a few new tunes, Marx's The Solo Tour – Live in Kuala Lumpur was exactly that: Him singing and playing the guitar and the piano alone (duh!). The only other guys "on stage" – albeit not literally – were his sons: Brandon, Lucas and Jesse. Marx sang Save Me while a video recording of the trio on drums, guitar and piano, was projected on a big screen. The boys, he said, are all musicians now although each dances to a different tune. Brandon’s into electronic music, Lucas is doing pop-R&B, and Jesse loves heavy metal, “just like me”, he quipped.
Brushing off impatient calls for Right Here Waiting, he performed Turn Off The Night, a track co-written with ex-Evanescence band member David Hodges, his favourite track from 2014’s Beautiful Goodbye – his eight studio album.
Taking on NSync’s This I Promise You, a track he composed, Marx joked about how girls would stake out the recording studio, waiting for the boys, not him, to come out.
“But then this one really beautiful girl ran up to me asking: ‘Are you Richard Marx?’. And I’m like, ‘Yeah’. And she goes: ‘OMG my mother loves you’. So this one’s for all you mothers,” he says, stabbing at his heart, tongue firmly in cheek.
This was followed by Satisfied and Just Go, a newish number because “I want you guys to know I still write good songs”.
The night’s only chaotic moment came during an unpluggged rendition Angelia. Singing without a mike and with his guitar not hooked to the amplifier, those seated behind the hall and upstairs were shouting over his voice because they couldn’t hear him. It took some very loud shushes before the hall quieted down. Hats off to Marx though – the guy can still sing. Although sounding a little raspier after what he described as a “dangerous” stunt, he launched into Don’t Mean Nothing, Should’ve Known Better and finally, the obligatory Right Here Waiting.
Surprisingly, there were no calls for an encore. Dance With My Father – a song he wrote with Luther Vandross, would have been a nice send-off. But I’m sure we’ll see Marx again soon. Till then, warm memories of the intimate, no-frills, masterclass performance, will have to do.
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