Pittsburgh's rock stars, supported by Pittsburgh Steelers greats and Pittsburgh radio personalities, delighted 8,400 spectators with a concert for the ages.
Yet, the fans saved their two heartiest standing ovations for the arena's ushers, ticket-takers, parking attendants and concession workers, who were saluted for - like the entertainers - volunteering their time, helping concert organizers preserve all ticket proceeds for American Red Cross disaster relief.
More than $125,000 was raised at the Pittsburgh Lends Emergency and Saving Efforts (PLEASE) concert, with 80 percent of the money headed to Hurricane Katrina victims, and the remaining 20 percent going to the Southwestern Pennsylvania Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.
And while the mission was serious, the show turned out to be loads of fun.
Rocker Bill Deasy went on stage first, setting the night's tone by blasting through his new disc's most vigorous song, "Wishing Well," backed by guitarist Rob James of the Clarks and WDVE-FM's Randy Baumann on keyboards. For Deasy's next song, "Levi," Donnie Iris, B.E. Taylor, Jeff Jimerson and Rusted Root's Liz Berlin huddled together and sang harmonies. Joe Grushecky and the Clarks' Scott Blasey chipped in on Deasy's final song, the Gathering Field's "Lost in America."
The four-hour show was filled with beloved bands meshing together, yielding unforgettable moments, like when the deejay for the hip-hop group Crave scratched a fresh beat to a Rusted Root jam, or when the Povertyneck Hillbillies' fiddle player Chris Higbee sawed away sweetly during the Clarks' "Penny on the Floor."
Louis Lipps shook his hips, as the retired Steelers receiver danced and did the correct hand gestures during the "bear in the mountains/deer in the woods/corn grows tall just like it should" chorus of the Povertyneck Hillbillies' "Hillbilly State of Mind."
"We've got to play a fire hall after this, do you believe this?" Grushecky said before his band tried to rip the roof on the Igloo with their Pittsburgh bar-rock classic "Pumpin' Iron."
Chants of "DAHW-nee, DAHW-nee" greeted Iris and his band, the Cruisers, which tore through three crowd-pleasers: "That's the Way Love Oughta Be," "Love is Like a Rock," and "Ah, Leah." Backstage, even seasoned rockers like Taylor said they felt goosebumps when Iris nailed all those songs' high notes.
The night also showcased rising talents, like country-tinged rockers Good Brother Earl and teen-age vocalist Margot Bingham whose mighty pipes evoked Alicia Keys. The daughter of retired Steelers linebacker Craig Bingham, Margot and her band, including ace guitarist Rick Witkowski, put a nice reggae-ish touch to No Doubt's "Just a Girl."
The near seamless show featured two video montages, set to the Clarks' "Hey You" and Bruce Springsteen's "My City of Ruins" showing emotional footage of the flood-ravaged Gulf Coast, reminding everyone why they were there. Steelers kicker Jeff Reed thanked fans for their generosity, saying how heart-tugging it's been for him to see teary-eyed teammates with Louisiana ties.
The evening ended with an inevitable all-star jam, a sloppy but nevertheless spellbinding set that swung from Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth," to Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" to the Beatles' "Golden Slumbers."
"What a memorable moment in Pittsburgh music history," commented WDVE morning co-host Jim Krenn.