By Park Jin-hai
The longstanding popularity of Richard Marx was easily proven, as the entrance to the concert hall was crowded with throngs of people who wanted to relish the moment by taking pictures on the photo wall that bore the singer's name.
Richard Marx, American singer-songwriter best known for his love song "Now and Forever," came to Korea for his first solo concert in 21 years.
For the second "An Intimate Evening" series concert organized by Conrad Seoul, the king of love ballads in the late 1980s and early 1990s, who is currently on a worldwide acoustic solo tour, performed Friday evening.
He and his acoustic guitar opened the night with "Endless Summer Nights" released in January 1988 as the third single from his debut solo album.
The singer was in his early 30s when he visited Korea for a 1995 solo concert and now he returns in his early 50s. His voice was not as powerful as his old days, but his aged husky vocals added depths to his songs.
Saying "Gamsahamnida," the Korean word for "thank you," the 52-year-old singer recalled his first visit to Korea. When his old black–and-white photo was shown on the screen, people laughed with joy and cheered. Drifting to his old days, his signature song "Now and Forever" followed right after, making the crowd of audiences blurt out wows.
The 1994 soft rock song he wrote and sang, which was also used for the 1994 film "The Getaway" starring Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin, topped the Billboard adult contemporary chart for straight eleven weeks and became one of the most-loved pop ballad songs in Korea as well.
"Tonight is just you and me. We can do whatever we want. I can sing anything you want," said Marx to the audience, mainly in their 40s and 50s, and then he turned the whole 90 minutes into a show where he shared his personal history, songwriting career and various quips as well as his most loved hit songs.
As Marx considers himself a songwriter who happens to sing, he has escorted audiences to the prolific repertoires of his songs, by saying, "I'll take you through my songwriting career tonight. A bunch of songs I made up and hopefully you know most of them."
In a recent media interview, he said, "I know a lot of people think of me as a singer. But the songwriting was the most important thing to me before I had a record deal. So I was writing songs for other people from the time I was 19. And still it is the most important part of what I do."
During the concert, he sang a total of 16 songs, playing the guitar and piano with no other musicians on stage ― including familiar songs to local audiences, such as "This I Promise You," a mega-hit song he wrote and produced for American boy band NSYNC's 2000 single, "Keep Coming Back," and "Right Here Waiting."
He also sang lesser known and relatively new pieces such as "When You Loved Me," which he wrote together with rock 'n roll band Vertical Horizon's lead vocalist and Marx's long time friend Matt Scannell, "Turn off the Night," co-written with ex-Evanescence band member David Hodges, and "Satisfied," which wrapped up the night.
The Chicago-born contemporary pop singer and songwriter began his musical career at the age of five, singing commercial songs written by his father for companies such as Arm & Hammer and Nestle.
Over the three-decade musical career, he has sold more than 30 million records worldwide, starting with his self-titled debut released in 1987, which spawned four Top 5 singles, including "Don't Mean Nothing." With this particular song, he earned a Grammy nomination for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance in 1988.
He has collaborated with many musicians, including Luther Vandross, with whom he wrote "Dance with My Father," and earned a Grammy for Song of the Year in 2004. In 2014, he released his eighth album "Beautiful Goodbye."
As a father of three sons he has with now ex-wife Cynthia Rhodes, actress of 1987 blockbuster "Dirty Dancing," Marx also had a special moment that he said the most favorite part of the show.
"This is my favorite part of the show, because I introduce you in a way to my children. I have three sons, very talented musicians and singers," he said. The video of his three sons playing different instruments and singing on the screen, Marx sang "Save Me" with his sons.
He chose "Right Here Waiting" for his encore song. When he began the charming ballad song, audiences let out loud cheering. All the audiences sang along the song's chorus "Wherever you go, whatever you do, I will be right here waiting for you," highlighting the concert's finale.