Backup singers take center stage on Sundance's opening night

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When Merry Clayton tells to people to get on their feet, people get on their feet.

Clayton, one of the legendary back-up singers profiled in the documentary "Twenty Feet From Stardom" (which debuted Thursday night at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival), stepped up to the stage after the screening to a nice round of applause.

Clayton (perhaps best known for the female vocal on the Rolling Stones' classic "Gimme Shelter") yelled to the Eccles Theatre audience, "You all can do better than that."

The audience obeyed, delivering a rousing standing ovation to the rock 'n' roll survivor.

Later, when a few audience members started to leave (it was, after all, around 11:30 p.m.), Clayton called to them, "Why y'all leaving?"

Clayton joined singers Tata Vega (a favorite back-up singer of Elton John, among others) and up-and-comer Judith Hill (who sang "We Are the World" at Michael Jackson's memorial service) for the post-screening Q-and-A — and each delighted the crowd by a short solo.

Two of the singers profiled in the film — Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame inductee Darlene Love and singer Lisa Fischer (who has been on every Rolling Stones tour since 1989) — were no-shows Thursday night. (Love had a family emergency, filmmaker Morgan Neville told the crowd, while Fischer had a gig and would arrive in Park City on Friday.)

All are expected for a concert in Park City on Sunday night.

- Sean P. Means