Thundergong lived up to its name.
Sunday night at the Uptown Theater, before a crowd that exceeded 1,700 people, several TV, film and music stars plus a large roster of well-known musicians from Kansas City and Lawrence delivered more than 3 1/2 hours of entertainment.
The music/comedy revue was a fundraiser for the Steps of Faith Foundation, a nonprofit that raises money to help people who have lost a limb afford a prosthesis.
The charity was founded by Billy Brimblecom Jr., a musician from Kansas City who became an amputee in 2005 after doctors removed his cancerous left leg.
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Brimblecom is a drummer, which has something to do with the name of the fundraiser: Behind the three drum kits onstage at the Uptown sat a large gong that was banged several times with a mallet. Most of the thunder, however, came from elsewhere, thanks to the star power in the room.
The event’s host was Jason Sudeikis, former “Saturday Night Live” cast member and former Overland Park resident who is now a move actor. Sudeikis and Brimblecom became friends in the mid-1990s when they both were members of the comedy improv troupe at ComedySportz.
Sudeikis was joined by two other “SNL” alums: Will Forte, now sporting a formidable, “Duck Dynasty”-worthy beard (and who played a mean triangle all night); and Fred Armisen.
They opened the show, each singing a well-known cover: Sudeikis sang Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight,” which gave the three drummers onstage a chance to unload some heavy percussion halfway through the song; Forte followed with T-Rex’s “Bang the Gong”; then Armisen sang the Clash’s “Train in Vain.”
Before the night turned into a star-studded karaoke/tribute show, however, Sudeikis emerged, reminded everyone why they were there — “to help people walk again” — and then introduced Madisen Ward & the Mama Bear, the son-mother duo from Independence who have performed sparingly around here as they work on the follow-up to their debut album, “Skeleton Crew.”
Before their set, Ruth Ward (Mama Bear) told the crowd that, although they’d performed all over North America and Europe in 2015-16, “there ain’t no place like home.”
They delivered two songs: their fetching remake of Fleetwood Mac’s classic “Dreams, and a new song that gives us plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the record they’re working on.
They were backed by the show’s house band, Summer Breeze, a soft-rock/yacht-rock tribute band founded by Brimblecom. The band was joined throughout the set by a variety of guest musicians, both local and national.
Three of the five members of the Get Up Kids performed two songs (including “Action and Action”), as did singer/songwriter Matt Wertz, a native of Liberty.
Strange Music was also represented by Krizz Kaliko, who uncorked a lively burst of funk/R&B/pop for two songs before summoning his label’s owner and Kansas City’s most successful music artist, Tech N9ne. Tech wore a mask during his incendiary rendition of “Hood Go Crazy,” which a majority of the audience seemed very familiar with.
That was preceded by a performance by Elvis Prestello — an Elvis Presley impersonator who covered Elvis Costello songs — and a brief air-guitar exhibition by Eric “Mean” Melin, former air-guitar world champion.
There was also a cover of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Even the Losers” (the first of three T.P.-related covers); a decent version of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” by Will Forte; and a lively but brief cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick.”
But there were also plenty of moments that focused on the higher purpose of the evening. A man named Ken, a beneficiary of the Steps of Faith, gave a brief testimonial to how getting his prosthetic limb changed his life.
Later there was a video about a man who’d lost his leg in an accident, but whose life and livelihood were turned around by a prosthetic limb funded in part by Steps of Faith.
Sudeikis and Forte raised a few thousand dollars alone in the middle of the show by auctioning off handwritten lyrics to a parody song they composed within seven minutes onstage (while Armisen conducted a Q&A to keep the crowd occupied).
The song they parodied: Prince’s “Purple Rain,” which they turned into “Yellow Snow” for reasons too complicated to get into here (unless you are hip to their Jon Bovi routine from “SNL”).
The show’s unofficial headliner was country star Wynonna Judd, who has a personal connection to Steps of Faith. Her husband, drummer Cactus Moser, had a leg amputated after a motorcycle accident. He and Brimblecom, who lived in Nashville for a few years, became friends, and Moser is now on the board of Steps of Faith.
Judd is no longer even remotely a part of the modern/commercial country scene, which is a shame, because it could sure use what she has to offer.
She ripped the place open — “I’m gonna get loud,” she warned — with two covers, first Petty’s “Refugee,” then Zeppelin’s “Rock ’n’ Roll.” She also tossed in one of her own classics, “No One Else on Earth,” from her self-titled album, released in 1992.
Nearly all the performers were onstage for the finale, which started with yet another Petty tribute (and you can’t have too many), this time “Handle With Care,” a Traveling Wilburys song. They closed with “Takin’ It to the Streets,” a yacht-rock classic by the Doobie Brothers that Summer Breeze handled with aplomb.
Before that, however, there was another ceremony and more affirmation of the purpose of the evening and the vital mission of Steps of Faith, which, as Sudeikis said at the onset of the show, is to help people walk again, to give them mobility and independence. And as much as the music and entertainment, that message resounded and resonated all night, like the peal of a prodigious bell.