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The people have their say: Hojo rocks

HOWARD JONES in concert at Deer Valley Resort, July 6, 7 p.m.; one performance only.

The celebrations have begun!Howard Jones -- affectionately known as "Hojo" to his fans -- officially kicked off the Deer Valley Summer Concert Series Tuesday night by throwing a party, and everybody danced!

What a night. As the sun's final beams cast a golden haze over the parking lots below the natural Deer Valley Resort amphitheater, keyboardist/vocalist Jones stepped on stage with his band -- bassist Nick Biggs, drummer Kevin Wilkinson and guitarist Robin Bolt. They burst into such tunes as "New Song," from his first album "Human's Lib" and the reggae-tinted "Like to Get to Know You Well," from the platinum-selling "Dream Into Action." Without hesitation, the band kept the reggae beats in mind and slinked into "Everything," from Jones' latest release, "People."

The flamboyant Jones (he's blond this year) was very appreciative of this audience -- his greatest national record sales are based in Utah -- and debuted a beauty of a song he wrote with Duncan Sheik, "Someone You Need." And, as he has always done during his various performances in Utah, Jones kept the show casual and intimate. He even asked the audience how the song sounded after transcribing the intro three times.

The band picked up the tempo with the body-shaking "Pearl In the Shell" and "Dreamin' On." And if that wasn't enough to get audience members on their feet, the band pulled out the stops with "Everlasting Love" and "Tomorrow Is Now."

After adjusting his mike to stop the shocks he was feeling, Jones played "Don't Try to Live Your Life In One Day," which, of course, had a segment where the audience could also sing along.

"Who needs backup singers when we have you," Jones acknowledged before diving into "What Is Love?"

For the encore, Jones and the band performed a new version of "No One Is to Blame" and "Let the People Have Their Say." The show-capper was a roaring version of "Things Can Only Get Better," which featured a Latin coda that could put Ricky Martin to shame.

Jones' music, unlike the friction-based angst so prevalent today, has always been positive, uplifting and empowering. And Deer Valley was the place to hear it. In fact, the only thing that stopped the audience -- as well as the band -- from flying was the lack of wings.