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Concert Review: Richard Marx and Matt Scannell at The Community Theater Mayo Center for the Performing Arts in Morristown, NJ, April 9, 2010

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Sense might not make the man, but a touch of humor is always a good idea when you’re playing an intimate concert with a friend.

The “ancient and formerly mulleted” Richard Marx (his words, not mine) with longtime friend and musical collaborator Matt Scannell (lead signer of Vertical Horizon) took the stage at The Community Theater Mayo Center for the Performing Arts in Morristown, NJ, this past Friday night as part of an ongoing tour featuring the unlikely duo. Not only was the music awesome, but the rapport these guys had with each other and the audience made the night a really great end to the otherwise hectic week.

I’ve been a fan of both artists’ music for many, many years. My older sister, who went to the show with me, loved Richard Marx when his first few albums came out. Through the CD’s I pilfered from her room and a broadcast concert on MTV – yeah, back when they were all about the music – that she taped and we both watched ad-nauseum, Marx’s music became an integral part of the soundtracks of our youth.

Fast forward ten years or so and Vertical Horizon comes on the scene. Fresh, rocking, emotional, and electric, the group captured my attention the first time I heard “Everything You Want” on the radio in 2000. They’ve been kind of quiet for a few years, so when I heard that Scannell was playing with Marx, it sounded like a no-lose opportunity. I loved both artists’ music and had never pictured the two together, though in reality they’ve been collaborating and playing together for years. The prospect was too good to pass up.

The theater was packed, not a single seat was open before the darkened stage that held two stools, two acoustic guitars, and a piano. As soon as I saw that, I knew I was in for a great night, not only because I love acoustic shows, but because it would be just the two of them. No back-up singers. No pageantry and showmanship. Down and dirty with the two guys the whole thing was about.

Marx was wonderfully irreverent and completely on his game — except when he flubbed his own lyrics. But hey, Scannell did the same and we all helped them out any way. It was all good since the atmosphere was more of a gathering of friends than a concert you had to pay to see. Scannell and Marx likened their show to VH-1 Storytellers (to which neither had ever been invited) and took turns playing their own songs, backing up the other, and sharing tales from behind the music and the spotlight.

Marx showed that he most certainly does not live up to the “light FM” typecasting his older music has been set into, as he showed the full range of his vocal and musical talents. Yes, there were the standards of “Should’ve Known Better,” “Don’t Mean Nothing” (flub, flub), “Endless Summer Nights,” and “Right Here Waiting.” But he also played newer songs that were less familiar, but no less memorable. They included ones that he and Scannell wrote together and recorded on their CD entitled “Duo;” “In My Veins,” which is a tribute to Marx’s late father; “Always on Your Mind;” and “When You’re Gone.”

Scannell was raw and gritty as ever, and simply amazing to see in person. He brought Vertical Horizon’s hits to life, with Marx on back-up guitar/keyboard and vocals, including “You’re a God;” “I’m Still Here,” which was written when Scannell had a 104-degree fever; and “The Best I’ve Ever Had.” What surprised me were some songs from the band’s first two major label CDs, which I own, that I’d never really listened to before. These include “We Are” and “Give You Back,” which was simply haunting, as was Scannell’s performance of “Carrying On,” which is off of Vertical Horizon’s most recent album, Burning the Days.

Tour dates for future shows can be found at Richard Marx's website. I highly recommend anyone who likes either of these artists’ work to scoop up some tickets while you can. These shows are rare and such an all around good time. Good music, laughs, reminiscing, and small spaces — who could ask for more in a concert?

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About Robin Kavanagh

  • Jeff Donovan

    It would be such an amazing experience to be able to see these two together in one stage. One very exciting event.

  • I saw Marx when he was part of Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band a couple years ago. He was fantastic, and very funny. At one point he deadpanned, “I’d like to thank Paul for inviting me out.” Wrong Beatle, great moment.

    You’ve written a really good review here. Nice work.

  • Meg Hunsicker

    This was my second “Duo” show with Richard and Matt and it was spectacular. I must admit that I “fell in love” with Matt at the “Duo” show on March 6, 2009 at the YMCA Boulton Ctr. in Bayshore, Long Island, while he sang “Give you Back” with raw emotion that brought me to tears. On Friday, Matt mentioned something about not doing this song any longer! Don’t stop performing this song, Matt. It was part of the reason for my return on Friday. I love Richard Marx and his music and have even gone to see him alone, but the “Duo” shows are my absolute favorite. My next goal is to see Vertical Horizon. I am proud to say that I purchased the “Duo” CD back in March of last year and it is the only CD in my 6-disc CD player in my car as well as on my MP3 player in my Bose sound dock. I also have the autographed “Duo” photo hanging in my family room. I know this sounds corny but it’s all true. Rock on, gentlemen. Rock on.

  • Afra Bangash

    Gr8 show at The Community Theater Mayo Center – NJ. Will go again. Good sense of humour!

  • Amber

    I saw a show with these two last year at the Glass Cactus Club in Grapevine TX last year and they were AWESOME! I have seen them in the same venue twice now and both shows were really good. I will go see them again if they come back!