Now and Forever: Richard Marx’s first acoustic show leaves Clearwater more than satisfied

Thanks to a few years of an unfortunate haircut in the ’80s, Richard Marx might get a bad rap from casual music fans of the decade. But if you ever, EVER miss out on a chance to catch one of his solo acoustic shows, the guilt lies entirely on you.

Thursday’s night show at Clearwater’s “cozy” Capitol Theatre — Marx’s first-ever career solo acoustic performance — is hard to describe in words. God knows I tried writing a bunch in my notebook during his two hours on stage. It’s almost embarrassing to reprint them here. Stuff like “Not a concert, it’s a revival. Not a show, it’s a reaffirmation.”

But that’s probably how the entire sold-out crowd of 455 felt after Marx tore through every hit in his catalog, and a few numbers from an upcoming new album that are sure to be future standards on tour.

Here are some highlights:

Meet-greet-marxFUNNIEST MUSICIAN ALIVE: Even more entertaining that his songs is Marx’s sense of humor. “Tonight’s the first night I’ve ever done this … and I’m scared s—less,” he says after starting the show with Endless Summer Nights. And he’s not against a little profanity once a while for added effect. “Should we get one of the p—y ballads out of the way? We have to pace ourselves,” he says with a wink. So quiet was the theater that when people would sneeze, Marx would squeeze a “Bless you” right in between the lyrics of a song.

A GREAT STORYTELLER: An acoustic show is the perfect chance to spin a few tales, and Marxie took every opportunity — to the delight of the approximately 400 female fans in attendance, who “awwww’d” at each story. His tune Angelia, for example, was a completed song without the female’s identity until he saw the necessary four-syllable name on a flight attendant’s name tag during a flight on a 15-month tour. “Technically this is a song about a girl who served me a ginger ale.” At another point, he revealed the secret ingredients of his “on-stage elixir” that enables him to keep his voice in top shape: “Heroin.” (Actually, just lemon juice, honey, crushed ginger and “as much cayenne pepper as you can stand.” Eww.)

HE LOVES HIS DAD: Much of the middle portion of the show Marx devoted to his dad, first singing a touching ballad Through My Veins. Then he revealed it was his father who wrote a bunch of the recognizable TV commercial jingles of the 1960s and he played the highlights including, “What’s the best tuna? Chicken of the Sea.” (It’s still swirling around my head.)

Marx-3 THE MARX BROTHERS: The singer/songwriter has three teenage sons, who backed him up (via a recorded video performance shown behind the stage) on piano, drums and guitar for the song Save Me. I don’t think I remember a word of the song. The effort it took just to create this one stage on stage had me and the crowd mesmerized.

THE HITS: Yes, yes. Every hit appeared in the show. Hold On To The Nights. Now and Forever. Hazard. And he ended the night not with an encore but with his four biggest hits all in a row: Satisfied, Don’t Mean Nothing, Should’ve Known Better and Right Here Waiting.

The last thing I wrote in my notebook before I closed it to enjoy his last few tunes: “The power of one man, his guitar and his connection with an audience.” I’m not sure what it all means, except that it was a pretty incredible night.

[Photos by Jeff O’Kelley]