You might wonder: what kind of charity or people could bring Elton John, Tony Bennett, Gladys Knight and Billy Crystal to perform in St. Paul, Minnesota on a Sunday night in July ‘ for free, no less?

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But all of these stars, as well as comedian Norm Crosby, “Soul Man” Sam Moore, dozens of star athletes, plus actor’Robert Culp, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, turned up to support Bill and Tani Austin’s Starkey Hearing’Foundation last night at the XCEl Center in St. Paul.

The Austins are famous for running “missions” all over the world, supplying hearing aids to children and adults in impoverished countries. I don’t mean one’or two, either. The Austins travel’constantly all year and fit the hearing aids by the’thousands. It’s utterly remarkable.

Imagine that Billy Crystal opened the’night with a sparkling’stand up set, crafted just for the night. Then came Gladys Knight, still hurting from Michael Jackson’s death. She sang “Midnight Train to Georgia” ‘with brother Bubba,’”Best Thing That Ever Happened to’Me,” and a couple of her early Motown hits.

Tony Bennett followed, with his usual impeccable delivery, on “The Best Is Yet to Come” and “For Once in My Life,” just wowing the crowd.

And into this mix, Sir Elton arrived ‘ it’s the second time he’s come to the Twin Cities for the Austins. And listen to this set: “Your Song,” “Tiny Dancer,” “Don’t Let Sun Go Down on Me,” “Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues,” “Rocket Man,” “Philadephia Freedom” plus “Circle of Life” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from “The Lion King.” They practically had to drag him off the stage. Elton’s whole set was him live vocally and on piano, with’a limited backing track. Extraordinary.

I’m glad I took the Austins up on a complimentary ear cleaning and audio test, by the way, which they offered all the guests. I never heard live music so well! And we did get a chance to go sightseeing for a second: we stopped and saw the house Mary, Rhoda, and Phyllis supposedly lived in back in the 70s on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Phyllis should never have sold after Lars “died” : the house is worth a fortune and it’s in a great neighborhood!

But back to real people: Gladys, by the way, is philosophical about Michael’s death. Said the superstar, who discovered the Jackson 5: “He’s not in pain anymore.”

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