Richard Marx raises his musicianship game
Richard Marx is sitting for an afternoon of interviews in the green room of the Donny & Marie Showroom at the Flamingo, where in a few weeks he’ll appear for the debut of Satisfied: Only the Hits, his first limited engagement at the hotel-casino.
In a few hours, he’ll play a preview of the all-acoustic show across the street at Cleopatra’s Barge inside Caesars Palace, dressed head to toe in black as he is now but accompanied by an all-female string quartet instead of his regular touring band. As a relaxed Marx revealed, the route to his Vegas headliner status was a somewhat serendipitous and stress-free journey.
“I mean, I’d love to come up with some romantic story,” said Marx, who married actress and former MTV host Daisy Fuentes in December 2015. “My agent called me and said, ‘The Flamingo’s interested in having you play this room just as an experiment.’ Then he said, ‘They want you to do your solo acoustic show.’ That was interesting to me because I don’t think there’s anything else like it in town.”
Marx decided he had nothing to lose by trying. He had worked with symphonies before (his late father was a composer and arranger), so the inclusion of a string quartet was a natural, and he had been performing acoustic sets for years. “It’s a cool excuse to take the show that I normally do and trim every ounce of fat off of it, so it’s only hits,” he said. “I mean, a really strict 75 minutes, every song you know.”
He’s also including acoustic versions of a few hits that he wrote for other people. Marx has surprised unsuspecting audience members by including “Dance with My Father” (Luther Vandross), “This I Promise You” (*NSYNC) and “Long Hot Summer” (Keith Urban) during recent performances. It’s the hits they come for though, and Marx delivers, from his 1987 breakout hit “Don’t Mean Nothing,” and top five follow-ups “Should’ve Known Better” and “Endless Summer Nights,” to his No. 1 hits “Hold On to the Nights,” “Satisfied” and “Right Here Waiting.”
The songs help define an era, their melodies serving as memory triggers for anyone who transitioned from teen to adult during the late ’80s to the early ’90s. Marx’s music picked up where latter-day Eagles and Kenny Loggins left off, and paved the way for later pop-rock acts such as Matchbox Twenty, Train and Maroon 5. The hits eventually stopped coming, but his followers remained faithful and Marx has worked prolifically as a producer and songwriter.
Even the Osmonds have recorded his songs, with Donny lending his tenor to a cover of “Right Here Waiting.” It’s coincidence that Marx is playing in a theater named for them, but the showroom enables an intimacy that he increasingly enjoys sharing with his audiences. “I still do a fair amount of band shows,” said Marx. “But when I started playing this way maybe six years ago, I feel like after all those years, decades, I started to really learn how to become a performer. And it raised my musicianship game.”
Flamingo, 7:30 p.m. Aug. 15-19, 22-26, 29-31 & Sept. 1-2, starting at $59 plus tax and fee. 702.777.2782