Tuesday was apparently bluegrass night on the late-show circuit; two of the three new musical performances were Americana-inspired. While we were wowed by the finger-picking of Jonny Mizzone?at eight, the youngest of the three New Jersey brothers that comprise the Sleepy Man Banjo Boys?on the Late Show rendition of Earl Scruggs‘s “Flint Hill Special,” it’s no more or less charming than the YouTube performance of the same song that went viral a couple months ago.
Gillian Welch, then, was the highlight of the night, debuting “That’s the Way It Goes,” from her new album The Harrow and the Harvest, on Conan. Welch, who won two Contemporary Folk Grammys before contributing to 2002′s wildly successful O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, has gained a much wider audience in the intervening years despite no new studio recordings since 2003′s Soul Journey. (Among her fans: The Civil Wars. In a recent Posted update, Jon Paul White showed off two Gillian Welch CDs he’d purchased at Amoeba Records in Hollywood, and Joy Williams clapped approvingly.) If the rest of The Harrow and the Harvest is as strong as last night’s performance of “That’s the Way It Goes,” it will have been worth the weight.
Ke$ha and Conan are a perfect fit. For evidence, witness her off-the-wall interview last month. So it was only natural that the young pop star inaugurated Conan‘s Summer Concert Series with a three-song set (two of which made the air). After a march-to-war rendition of “Blow”, she performed the non-single title track of her debut album Animal. Ke$ha is always an extremely earnest performer, even when she’s doing cartwheels onstage (which, sadly, she didn’t on Conan). This particularly suited “Animal,” which probably would have been a single, except it couldn’t quite follow up the irreverent tone of “Tik Tok.”
The other problem with “Animal,” and the other songs Ke$ha really sings, as opposed to rapping, is that she can sometimes sound like an annoying Alanis Morissette impersonator. Last night, either she intentionally tried to avoid that, or else “Blow” left her voice just rough enough to prevent it anyway. Regardless, she sounded really great.
Also worth checking out from last night: Lloyd‘s performance of “Cupid” on Lopez Tonight. Maybe he was intentionally booked to match up to the music of Lopez’s lead-in; maybe it just happened to be a good night for music on TBS. Either way, he sounded fantastic, and his early-nineties-inflected R&B may, given 2011′s pop trends, finally get the moment it deserves.
The 2011 BET Awards remembered the past while honoring the present last night in Los Angeles, with a full fifteen musical performances?mostly multiple-song medleys?that spanned decades and genres. We highly recommend you check out all of the performances, especially Mary J. Blige‘s mega-medley of “Mary Jane,” “Real Love,” “You Bring Me Joy,” “Rapture” (with Anita Baker) and “It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over (with DJ Khaled and Jadakiss), and the Patti LaBelle tribute featuring Cee Lo (dressed as LaBelle!), Marsha Ambrosius, and Shirley Caesar.
The highlight of the night, though, was Alicia Keys‘s own four-song medley. She stood on her piano as she opened with new-old song “Typewriter,” a Songs in A Minor outtake that will be included on tomorrow’s 10th Anniversary reissue of the album. She took to the keys for single “A Woman’s Worth,” from the same album, for which she was joined by Bruno Mars on guitar and vocals. This wasn’t merely a throwback performance, though. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that?see Alexander O?Neal & Cherrelle‘s “Saturday Love”, which sounded as good as ever.) Rick Ross took the stage for a triumphant rendition of “Maybach Music 2,” with Keys providing T-Pain’s hook and Bruno Mars providing the guitar riff.
After she shouted out Rozay and Bruno Mars, Keys closed out her medley alone, with “Fallin’,” which retains its power and charm millions of radio plays and a decade later. We’re still processing the fact that these songs (except 2009′s “Maybach Music 2″) are all ten years old, and they sounded so good and fresh last night that we’re even more confused.
A good rule of thumb: anytime Liam Gallagher shows up on television, it’s worth watching, for better or for worse. (Remember when he told Carson Daly he was feeling “godlike” on TRL?) Last night’s Beady Eye performance on The Late Show with David Letterman was no exception. The band made their American television debut last night, but they’re no new-jacks?Beady Eye is Oasis minus that band’s primary songwriter (and Liam’s brother) Noel Gallagher?hence their debut album’s title, Different Gear, Still Speeding.
The band was immediately a big draw in the UK (co-headlining the Isle of Wight festival), but had to adjust to their American fanbase when they played The Metro in Chicago on Tuesday prior to their Letterman engagement. Blair R. Fischerreported for Spin that they did so just fine. Anyway, in the same February Rolling Stone interview, Gallagher remarked that New York is his favorite city, and the Late Show afforded the band the opportunity not just to appear last night, but to record an entire 45-minute Live from Letterman set. So all the pieces were in place for the band to sound as good as they could, which, ultimately, wasn’t that far off from Oasis, despite the Gallaghers’ continuing fraternal rancor. (Noel even scheduled his wedding during the same period Beady Eye would be across the Atlantic.)
When Pitbull and Ne-Yo teamed to perform their single “Give Me Everything” at the 2011 Billboard Music Awards last month, we didn’t even think it worth a mention in our roundup of the show’s highlights; the slightly out-of-breath Pitbull and a seemingly off-his-game Ne-Yo turned out a solidly mediocre performance. Their appearance last night on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, though, was an entirely different story.
Sure, the backing tracks didn’t exactly sound stellar through the booming outdoor soundsystem, but it didn’t matter, because both performers brought their best to a performance of what in the last month has climbed the charts to top out at #2 (just beneath the ever-present “Rolling In the Deep”). Sometimes, victory-lap performances like this one can be marked by indolence, but being as near the top of the charts as Adele will allow is apparently no reason for either performer to slack off. Pitbull, in particular, is all over our Song of the Summer charts, and he was similarly dominating onstage last night (so much so that Ne-Yo was not even announced beforehand as a musical guest). The Miami rapper has quietly become a chart monster over the last few years, and it’s great to see him enjoy the heck out of it.
Yesterday was surprisingly strong for late night music on a Monday. Bon Iver kicked off “StePhest Colbchella ’011: Rock You Like a Thirst-icane” on The Colbert Report and Mint Condition slayed the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon crowd as Weird Al Yankovic, sitting in with the Roots, looked on. (Panic! at the Disco weren’t bad on Kimmel either.)
The best performance of the night, though, belonged to Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, who burned up the Lopez Tonight stage. The whole crowd clapped along with the punchy throwback-soul number “Without a Heart,” thanks in no small part to the Dap-Kings’ sharp playing. Were Sharon Jones a James Brown-style bandleader, she wouldn’t have needed to fine any of the Dap-Kings a cent. As it is, Jones is a much less harsh figurehead than Brown ever was, though her gruff vocals hardly have less power for it (though she definitely leads the way?the band stops on a dime on the line “I could be cold as ice”). Of course, the band nods to their roots by ending the song with a mini-riff of Brown’s soul classic “I Don’t Mind.”
Last month Lauryn Hill made her first late night appearance in years for Bob Marley Week on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and she must have had a great experience with the show, because she was back last night to play her classic single “Doo Wop (That Thing).” The very pregnant Hill showed no signs of flagging energy as she and her band (without any need of help from The Roots, even) blasted through a slightly sped-up version of the song. We don’t want to add more weight to the expectations many had (and still have) for Hill as an artist, but we can’t help but note that she remains an extraordinarily talented MC, and her band was right in the pocket.
Recent Glassnote signees and Dirty Projectors tourmates Givers made their television debut on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon yesterday, and they picked the perfect song to play. Granted, “Up Up Up” is their single, but it’s such a bright combination of multilayered rhythm and Afro-pop-tinged indie-rock guitar that it suited the band’s own excited energy at appearing on Fallon. Guitarist and co-lead singer Taylor Guarisco couldn’t stand still for a second, bouncing and chicken-walking all over the small amount of stage space he had available to him. The smiles on the rest of the band’s faces spoke almost as loudly as his dancing.
The band’s Southern jam-pop is in the vein of Annuals‘s “Brother,” the over-hype of which may have caused more harm than help to that North Carolina sextet. But the Louisiana-based Givers have Daniel Glass on their side, so we’re not too worried about their future?and we expect to hear another single from their debut In Light (released last week) soon. Our only complaint about the performance is that we would’ve liked to have seen more of what equipment the keyboardist was working with.