Monday may have been Legacy Night on NBC’s late shows, with country legend Glen Campbell celebrating his 100th birthday on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno and the influential psych-pop Zombies playing Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, but yesterday was another story entirely. Much-buzzed indie-rockers Girls played Fallon, and Cobra Starship led the night with an on-point rendition of the trancey single, featuring Sabi, that they also performed during the 2011 VMAs pre-show. The project of Midtown frontman Gabe Saporta, Cobra Starship once seemed an ironic joke that wasn’t quite funny (thanks in part to an inauspicious Snakes On A Plane tie-in of a debut single). In the ensuing years, though?not least last night?the band has more than made clear how serious they are, and actually have been pretty forward-thinking in the process. Fun, not funny. Got it, Cobra Starship.
So when the band took the stage, the crowd was ready?or so they thought, until the band launched into not one of their many hits, or even their numerous B-sides, but a brand new song that they hadn’t even played at their festival this past weekend. “Olé” is a fun, hard-charging rocker, and the band turned out a great performance. Can’t wait to hear a studio version? It’s already available for free download from the band’s website. Wish the band would play more? They’ll be on Fallon again tomorrow night. Any more questions?
Dave Grohl made a guest appearance on Chelsea Lately last night?not to play music, but to talk VMAs with host Chelsea Handler (who of course emceed last year’s VMA ceremony).?With no musical guest on The Late Show and Kristin Chenoweth and Chris Colfer on The Tonight Show, yesterday may have seemed the perfect opportunity to repeat a cry for “real” rock music, and to clarify his much-quoted comment to the Hollywood Reporter, “F?k Glee.”
Grohl remains one of the nicest guys in music, and we love seeing him tell stories and wave goofily, even though he’s starting to sound like an old man when talking about music. In he interview he refers to the use of “computers” as “cheating,” and pointedly notes that when the Foo Fighters play live, it sounds like “five guys beating the s?t out of their instruments,” making an implicit contrast with artists who faithfully reproduce their recorded songs live. (Don’t count on the Foos playing The Colour and the Shape start to finish anytime soon.) We wouldn’t have the Foos any other way, but we certainly don’t want every artist to embrace this philosophy.?
As for Glee, well, far be it from us to say that Grohl should take lessons from Lady Gaga about artifice, but when a guy praises Kiss and Queen in one breath and spits out the word “musical” with derision in the next, there’s a bit of a disconnect. That said, Glee is more like professional karaoke than a Top 40 jukebox musical, and we will always have a soft spot in our hearts for nineties dudes who insist you don’t have to sell out to anyone. DIY-or-die may not be a requirement, but it’s always an option.
Our favorite bit of this interview, though, was Grohl’s anecdotes about Cloris Leachman at the 2011 VMAs. He told Handler that she spent the ceremony in slippers, and when Adele performed, the actress went right up to the stage to watch, camera crew be damned. Right on, Cloris! Who’s gonna tell you not to?
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?
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.
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…
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. ?