Tuned In

by

Tuned In: OK Go Take A Backseat To Animal On Leno

OK Go‘s attention-getting music videos and performances have been an effective way to get attention for their music in a Web 2.0 world, but it’s probably pretty exhausting. The band’s off-kilter visual sensibilities, though, are not far off from those of the Jim Henson Company, so we weren’t surprised that they were tapped to cover “The Muppet Show Theme Song” (and shoot a music video) for The Green Album. Their appearance on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno yesterday was an extension of that, but it was also a showcase?and, probably, a relief?for the band. Joined by Animal, who provided a wicked drum solo mid-song (no explosions, though), the band found themselves able to focus entirely on their performance, without needing to supplement the song with another gamble for the audience’s attention. So they sounded great! Plus, the promotion of Thanksgiving-weekend film The Muppets was as unobtrusive as a multi-million dollar push can be, and any excuse to get someone playing a theremin on The Tonight Show is a bonus.

Bonus evangelism (pun not intended): Kirk Franklin appeared on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, performing “I Smile,” a song that’s just outside the Top 20 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart (after peaking at #12) but virtually unknown to all but “urban adult contemporary” listeners, because it’s also spent 21 weeks at #1 on the Gospel chart, and for most American listeners, non-secular music (no matter what the religious affiliation) may as well be in another language. “I Smile” is a funked-up “Hard-Knock Life” based around an S.O.S. Band sample (as interpolated through the 1997 Scarface and Tupac single “Smile”). If Glee renditions can cross over and chart, why not Franklin’s choir (filled with chart-toppers in their own right, like Isaac Carree) singing a track based on a Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis break?

Elsewhere in late night…
Read more…

by

Tuned In: Lenny Kravitz’s “Stand” On Letterman And Fallon‘s Revue?Featuring Tony Orlando

Lenny Kravitz followed Alec Baldwin and Joe Namath, but he and his band were so on last night that he may as well have followed a full show of Stupid Pet Tricks. Performing single “Stand” on the eve of the release of his album Black and White America, Kravitz had the audience in the palm of his hand. It’s not often that a late-night show will cut away from a band to show the audience, but when Kravitz shouted “C’mon, y’all!” and entreated them to clap along, the show’s director couldn’t help but briefly feature the entire audience clapping along. Kravitz could have had the most notable performance of the night with his eyes closed, but we’re glad he didn’t settle for that.

That said, we’re also glad we clicked over to Late Night With Jimmy Fallon afterward, because his show turned out to feature a panoply of musical performances. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks closed out the show by performing “Senator”?during which Malkmus blurted out an obscenity, and after which he failed to hide the smirk that indicated that the appearance was the most fun he’d had on television since Pavement was on Space Ghost: Coast to Coast. But Dungeon Family A-lister Killer Mike was also sitting in with the Roots all night, and guest Will Forte invited Jimmy Fallon to join him in singing backup for a friend of Forte’s: Tony Orlando. Apparently Orlando is fond of observing young talent and telling them to follow their dreams, as Forte and Questlove shared similar stories of being encouraged in a manner that the Roots drummer compared to the Mean Joe Green Coke ad. In any case, Forte and Fallon provided backing vocals and a bit of percussion, and the Roots provided the rest, in a rendition of “Knock Three Times” that had Orlando quipping, a minute in, “Dawn who?”

Read more…

by

Tuned In: St. Vincent And Cake Angle For Prime Booking, Then Play Their Hearts Out

With the late shows just coming back from hiatus, and the VMAs only one day earlier, yesterday was not exactly prime late-night booking for big artists?but it did present an opportunity for artists who might otherwise have difficulty competing for airtime. St. Vincent on The Late Show with David Letterman, and to a lesser extent Cake on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, leaped at the opportunity, turning out great performances in what, for them, is a great venue.

St. Vincent, whose new album Strange Mercy is set to be released September 13, has scored a series of promotional coups: appearing on the September 2011 cover of Spin, performing on the rooftop of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and premiering the comically dark video for “Cruel” in unlikely venue The Huffington Post. Last night’s performance of “Cruel” was actually her second Late Show appearance?she performed “Marrow” in June of 2009?but she was hardly going through the motions. If “Cruel” is a good indication, her new album will be a fall highlight.

Cake, meanwhile, are hardly unknowns?1996′s Fashion Nugget went platinum on the strength of “The Distance”?but January’s Showroom of Compassion was their first LP in over six years, and self-released besides. That being said, this return to The Tonight Show (they performed “Long Time” on March 1) is if not unprecedented at least improbable for a band at this stage in their career, and they, too, made the best of it, with a well-performed rendition of “Mustache Man (Wasted).”

St. Vincent “Cruel” 8/29 Letterman [The Audio Perv]
Read more…

by

Tuned In: Joe Jonas Rocks The Ed Sullivan Theatre For “Live On Letterman”

The late-night music showcases have gone relatively quiet, with most of the shows in reruns for the back half of August. In fact, only The Late Show with David Letterman is new this week, which might be why they chose this week to reprise their Drum Solo week. (Last’s night’s solo was courtesy Tony Royster Jr., who’s played with the likes of En Vogue and Jay-Z.) Yesterday Letterman sweetened the pot, though, with a 30-minute Joe Jonas concert broadcast live from the Ed Sullivan Theatre at 9pm ET?and luckily for fans of both dance-pop and La La’s Full Court Life, which aired on VH1 at the same time, the whole set?including new songs “I’m Sorry” and “Kleptomaniac”?is streaming, above and at the “Live on Letterman” website. If his fanbase at large is anywhere near as enthusiastic as the mostly female crowd (who knew all the words to “When You Look Me In the Eyes” and single “See No More”), Jonas’s solo outing could have some real legs, and given the strength of some of the songs, that success won’t be undeserved.

Set list:

Read more…

by

Tuned In: Ximena Sariñana Brings Something “Different” To Leno

A disclaimer: yes, Ximena Sariñana is our latest You Oughta Know artist (and Jay Leno even said as much before her Tonight Show performance yesterday). That said, we swear it’s not favoritism when we say she had the best musical performance of the night. Sariñana, now scaled way up from her You Oughta Know Live backing band (that is to say, her brother Sebastian), remains the focal point without losing any of the elements of the song. Kudos, for example, to whomever put the drums behind plexiglass so the drummer could really pound out the rhythm without bleeding into everyone else’s microphones.

That commitment to power and clarity is key to why Sariñana has our ears. In all honesty, we’ve developed a bit of an allergy to quirk of late, and while she sometimes toes that line, she the requisite rock sensibility to keep that from overwhelming her sound. Does she use a variety of sonic elements? Sure. But is it precious? Hardly.

Sariñana’s closest competition for best performance of the night was not Ellie Goulding (whose performance of “Lights”—a good song—was capable but uninspired) nor Incubus (who sounded much better on Jimmy Kimmel Live! than they did recently on Letterman, but whose new single isn’t doing much for us), but Questlove and “Captain” Kirk Douglas of The Roots, performing part of Song Of The Summer contender “Party Rock Anthem” as Black Simon and Garfunkel for a brief “Suggestion Box” sketch on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon:
Read more…

by

Tuned In: Cage The Elephant Showcase Alt-Rock On The Tonight Show

Ever heard of Cage the Elephant? They’re a young rock band from Kentucky whose second album Thank You Happy Birthday was critically acclaimed but popularly ignored earlier this year. There’s no home for the band on the radio, and yet there the band was on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno yesterday.?

This isn’t a story of “indie band makes good,” though?at least, not exactly. See, Cage the Elephant is signed to Jive, which may be why the American indie-rock world remains inexplicably uninterested in what otherwise fits the bill perfectly: nineties-inspired, thoughtful alt-rock. Sardonic pop critic Chris Weingarten recently started a Twitter list of “major label bands no one listens to” that included the band, along with their tourmates Manchester Orchestra.

We’re not sure how much the Leno billing did for Cage the Elephant?the band’s (mostly young) fans aren’t necessarily the Tonight Show‘s audience, nor vice versa?but we’d like to hope otherwise. As weird as it still feels to be pulling for a young band on a major label, we know that there are few things a major label can do for a young guitar-rock band these days. One is to write the check for an eye-catching music video (see Manchester Orchestra‘s VMA-nominated “Simple Math”); another is to shoot for exposure via, say, a prime late-night booking. (Another is to get a good tour opening slot, but Foo Fighters are pretty picky about whom they’ll bring on tour, so we suspect that booking had little to do with the label.) We’re crossing our fingers that the Tonight Show audience liked their performance as much as we did. ?

Elsewhere on late night…
Read more…

by

Tuned In: My Chemical Romance Delve Deep On Fallon

Where has My Chemical Romance been? (On tour, but we were being rhetorical, so play along.) After appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live! last November, premiering their entire album Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys live in LA for MTV a week later, the band has shied away from the promotional circuit (save for a Conan appearance back in January). You’d even be forgiven for thinking that their appearance yesterday on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon was in support of a new album, especially if you gave Danger Days too little attention when it came out (as we confess we did).

Maybe the fact that the band wasn’t trying to push their album to anyone who wasn’t already interested was why the performance was so compelling. Maybe it was their choice of deep cut “The Kids From Yesterday” instead of any of the singles. Or maybe it was frontman Gerard Way‘s constantly shifting focus, often turning his back on the cameras to face the cluster of fans of the band, singing along on the balconies over the stage. (This performance had more cuts from camera to camera, and worm’s-eye-view shots, than any we can remember seeing on late night television?even more frantic and frenetic even than when singers have departed the stage.) In any case, the rockers convinced us, with this ballad, to revisit their album. Which we guess was sort of the point.

Elsewhere on late night…
Read more…

by

Tuned In: Mat Kearney Takes A Cue From Hanson On Leno

Last night, we were all about the Explosions in the Sky performance on the Late Show with David Letterman?not necessarily because we’re the biggest fans of their sweeping-guitar post-rock (which is not bad) but because for four precious minutes we could close our eyes and pretend that Friday Night Lights was still on the air. (We miss you, Coach Taylor!) As a result, we underrated the unassuming performance taking place simultaneously on the Tonight Show: Mat Kearney‘s “Hey Mama.” Back in 2006 Kearney was a You Oughta Know artist whose songwriting (and vocals) reminded us of parts of what we like about Coldplay.

In the intervening years, he’s added not-inconsiderable pep, and a full horn section, to his band, which pushes yet another set of our pop-music buttons. Think Chris Martin fronting Hanson on a “Give a Little” b-side. In fact, it was so catchy that we’re willing to forgive the lyric “Met her at Anthropologie.” Check it out!

Elsewhere on late night…

Read more…

by

Tuned In: tUnE-yArDs Gives Christina Perri A Run For Her Money (With Help From The Roots)

We’re not sure how to explain the glut of great performances on television last night, but we’re certainly not complaining. We actually recommend checking them all out (links below the cut), but we couldn’t even pick just one highlight. To be sure, when The Late Show with David Letterman wrapped up, we thought we had just seen the best of the night. Christina Perri, fresh off a tour with James Blunt (and clearly much more confident as a showperson) turned in an impressive performance of her Top 20 Countdown contender and #24 most-streamed-of-2011 single “Arms.” Why, you might wonder, were we so impressed by a three-month-old single on Letterman? Quite frankly, because her touring experience has stepped her performance game up by an order of magnitude. Before her serendipitous Dancing with the Stars breakthrough, her storied performance history was almost exclusively solo guitar-and-vocal shows, but the Perri who performed on television late night was a pianist and a bandleader, with a rhythm section in the pocket, and able to add a jaunty lilt to her love ballad (getting the audience to clap along, even) without modifying the song’s tempo. (We’re a sucker for tone shifts, because they suggest a wider range and further depths of talent.)

There wasn’t a dud in the entire night’s lineup of musical performances (though the Jimmy Kimmel Live! booker really gave the talented ukelele player Jake Shimabukuro a tough break by scheduling him opposite a whole slate of much better-known artists, and on Kimmel‘s first show since Lady Gaga‘s appearance last Thursday). Even still, Perri’s performance set the bar for the evening. Then tUnE-yArDs appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and, dare we say, raised it.

We’re not exactly surprised that tUnE-yArDs impressed the Fallon crowd with “Gangsta,” because the band’s live show has impressed us?not to mention the crowd at this year’s Pitchfork Musical Festival?in the past. To match a nuanced performance by a You Oughta Know artist who’s clearly only gotten better, though, tUnE-yArDs needed to do more than just sound good on television. So how about getting ?uestlove‘s help to turn the instrumental break in “Gangsta” into a free-jazzy hip-hop beat for Black Thought, also of The Roots, to rap over? That’s enough for us to keep it in the running!

Whose performance was better? (Or does one of the other performances listed below top both?) Let us know in the comments!

Elsewhere on late night:
Read more…

by

Tuned In: Anna Calvi Makes Her U.S. Television Debut On Letterman

For the most part a Mercury Prize nomination serves either as another critical feather in the cap of a commercially successful artist like Adele, or else as an acknowledgment of a particularly British artist like Katy B, whose two-steppy pop is danceable and emotive, but stands practically no chance of crossing over into the US pop world.

Occasionally, though, the nomination is an opportunity?the tipping point in a wave of good press that gets US critics?and audiences?paying attention. Take Tinie Tempah, about whom we wrote just yesterday. Or take?Anna Calvi, who made her United States television debut last night on?The Late Show with David Letterman. Backed only by a drummer and an extremely enthusiastic harmonium player and percussionist (about whom Letterman quipped,?”This woman is quite busy. Have you noticed that?”), Calvi charmed the Late Show audience with a guitar-and-vocal performance influenced by, but hardly a cookie-cutter copy of, PJ Harvey. Whether Calvi can build an American audience remains to be seen, but this first shot across the bow was remarkably effective.

Elsewhere on late night…

Read more…