Of all the tributes that followed Michael Jackson's Moonwalk into the Big Nowhere, few were as odd -- and Minnesotan -- as the one that filled the streets of downtown Minneapolis on Friday: a memorial concert on the City Hall carillion. That's right: the tender strains of "Ben," the uplifting drama of "We Are the World," and other pop hits rendered in bell form.
If you're thinking some Quasimodo, or even a Semimodo, was up the tower yanking ropes, half-mad from the cacophonous collisions, running from string to string to simulate crisp funk on 600-pound bells that reverberate for half a day if you throw a BB at them, well, no. Dan Wascoe performed the concert on a tiny keyboard in the lobby, and did his best to translate the melodies to the dozen-plus notes available. He could not do "Thriller," which is too bad; we would have enjoyed Mayor Rybak yelling a Minneapolis version of the Vincent Price speech from the balcony of the tower. The Funk of Forty Thousand Years / Shall lead the demons to the slaughter! / The ghouls shall rise and improvise / And don't forget to try our water!
Musical celebrities of all ages should be advised to come up with a signature tune that can be played on giant bells and be instantly recognizable. Prince is set; the keyboard can handle "1999." Eminem less so, unless they just hit all the bells to indicate bleeped-out words. In between tributes to the fallen, the bells could be put to other uses, you know. It would be an interesting sociological experiment to play "shave and a hair cut" at noon without providing the rest, and see how long it took for a torch-and-pitchfork mob to gather at City Hall, demanding they play "Two Bits" so everyone can get on with their life, already.
Note: if you hear "Maple Leaf Rag" on the bells next week, your fears are true. Scott Joplin is dead.