Surely people are getting their Michael Jackson overload today, but anyone who showed up to the Soul Rebels house part at Le Bon Temps Roule last night knows they witnessed something incredible. Before the show, Trombonist Winston Turner told me to expect a special set. To honor the late, great King of Pop, the band played nothing but Michael Jackson tunes all night. My only regret was that I had just my cell phone camera to capture just a grainy minute and a half of the glory.
It started fittingly with raised glasses and Winston paying tribute to the dead icon but quickly turned into a modern New Orleans wake: a brass band mourning a death by celebrating life and playing nothing but the King's own music. Tannon Williams led the way on trumpet with a stirring rendition of "Rock With You" and the band blew through everything from "I Want You Back" to "Smooth Criminal" and, of course, "Thriller." They even played Jackson's version of "Happy Birthday" he sang on "The Simpsons" - definitely the coolest moment of the night.
Calling it surreal would be a gross understatement. Soul Rebels played under the faintest light after the stage lights (in Le Bon Temps, that's what they call a stop light) were turned off, much to the delight of the band. The night was hot and wet and inside was no better, but that didn't stop anyone from having a good time - and you can bet the bar receipts will support that claim.
There is much that will be said about Michael Jackson - good and bad - but, in a purely artistic sense, what more can you say about a musician whose death affects nearly everyone's life in some way? A musician with such an extensive catalog that a brass band in New Orleans can rock a party playing just his music and the crowd sings along cause they all know the words.
People will continue to pay tribute to Jackson through his funeral and beyond, but as far as I'm concered, his wake was last night and it was befitting a King.
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