Live Last Night, On TV

Time for a new Friday feature to replace the dearly departed Two-Minute Man. This concept is similarly simple, just using TV instead of radio. We've made it to the 1950s! There's certainly more variety than the 200 or so songs that populate 94.7's playlist as we get everything from the Hold Steady to Randy Travis to Shwayze this week.

1. The Hold Steady, "Sequestered in Memphis" (Letterman, Wednesday)
Craig Finn, just listen to me for a second. It's time to give up the guitar. Just let it go, dude. You treat it more as an ornament than an instrument. You play it less than half the time. During this performance you strummed for maybe 30 seconds. And when you do play, it throws you off your vocal game and also prevents you from making those awesome, Joe Cockery hand gestures. (That might be the first time "awesome" and "Joe Cockery" have been used in the same sentence. Actually, it might be the first time "Cockery" has been used in any sentence. And you know what? Let's make it's the last. Sorry about that.)

But Craig - I know it's nice to have that guitar there to keep you company, to hide behind if you need to, to make you look cool. Because let's face it, you're not a really cool looking dude. But here's the thing - you're cool now! You're a minor rock star, despite the fact that you can't sing, litter your lyrics with literary references and look like someone who is perpetually working on those last couple credits of his English grad degree. You've beaten the odds!

Now the guitar is actually making you less cool because it keeps your live shows at the "merely awesome" level instead of "revelatory." Embrace your awesome frontmanness! Find some random hoodrat to play whatever few chords you play. Just think how great it would be if you could stalk around the stage at will while concentrating solely on your vocals and lyrics, which, as you well know, are what makes the Hold Steady so great. This is the way to take the band to the next level. It's time. Look, if you want to strap one on for "Killer Parties" at the end of the set, that's cool. But otherwise, it's time to let it go.

Otherwise, this was a perfect performance of a perfect song, enhanced by the two-piece horn section.

2. The Cool Kids, "What It Iz" (Kimmel, Thursday)
You have to love the hip-hop duo's attention to detail with its Golden Era devotion. I mean, Chuck is wearing a Pistons T-shirt using the classic Ramones logo but with the names Joe, Rick, Bill, Dennis, Isiah going around the circle. The Bad Boy Pistons, classic late-'80s. The no-frills performance is fantastic. No need to have some band that will pretend to play instruments that don't fit with the song. Just two turntables and two microphones. It's infectious, fun and just good.

3. John Mellencamp, "Troubled Land" (Letterman, Thursday)
Whoulda thunk it? An actual Coug revival. First the ubiquity of that "Our Country" commercial that you finally forgot about until I just mentioned it now (sorry), then induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - and now a critically-acclaimed album produced by T-Bone Burnett. This is the kind of song that revivals are built on. Perfectly solid straightforward rock-and-roll with a bit of a message from someone who we kinda like and trust is good at it. Good for the Coug.

4. Daryl Hall & KT Tunstall, "If Only" (Conan, Tuesday)
On first glance I thought, "Wow, Oates looks amazing!" But alas, it wasn't Oates, but KT Tunstall. She and Hall turn in a nice little duet on Tunstall's tune with a bit of vocal role reversal - she's got the rough edges, he's got the smooth blue-eyed soul thing. The bonus version of "Foolish Pride" was even better and surely made Oates grit his teeth.

5. Jakob Dylan, "Something Good This Way Comes" (Leno, Tuesday)
Gentle, folky and with just a bit of twang. Dylan's raspiness is at ideal levels and the music isn't too exciting, but the sing-songy vocal melodies are easy to hum along to. The definition of pleasant.

6. James Hunter, "Don't Do Me No Favors" (Leno, Monday)
James "Paperman" Hunter. The classic soul/R&B revival is always going to be at least somewhat appealing solely because of the classic recipe - grooving bass line, a double shot of horns, emotive vocals. Done competently, that's always going to sound good. Hunter's voice isn't particularly inspiring here but he's got some happy feet and quick fingers on the guitar, a touch of Brian Setzer showmanship. I can definitely see why parents would like this.

7, Randy Travis, "Dig Two Graves" (Letterman, Monday)
This is one morbid song. "Because without you here, I won't last long/Your loves the blood, running through these vines/So if he calls you home, they can dig two graves." The fact that Travis sings it with a slightly possessed look in his eyes makes it even creepier. Says Letterman to him after the performance, "Dig Two Graves?" Travis nods. "Whoa," says Dave. Exactly.

(More afer the jump.)

8. Dr. Dog, "The Old Days" (Conan, Thursday)
It's hard to believe this was the same band I reviewed back in November. That band was a bunch regular looking dudes playing fun, ragged psych-pop that happily, shamelessly ripped off the best of the '60s. This band had semi-coordinated outfits (multiple conductor caps) and played a song that could best be described as "Canadian" in scope. Based on this one song, I cannot sign off on the new direction. But you can only take the '60s revivalism so far, so they might as well go for it.

9. Coldplay, "Viva la Vida" (Leno, Thursday)
Chris Martin really is going to wear that Adam Ant jacket for the entire promotion of "Viva la Vida," isn't he? This is on an outdoor stage and I'm skeptical that anyone's actually playing anything, and there's confetti, and Martin's behavior is making me re-think that whole argument about Craig Finn embracing his inner frontman.

10. Nas, "Hero" (Kimmel, Wednesday)
The highlight of this performance was the quick shot of the DJ doing his thing on a turntable with NO RECORD. I'm not sure I dig the big rock sound Nas is incorporating these days. It all sounds a little too much like Jimmie's Chicken Shack or 2 Skinnee J's.

11. Gavin Rossdale, "Love Remains the Same" (Leno, Wednesday)
It's nice to see that the guy who brought us such memorable lyrics as "The cupboard is empty, we really need food/Summer is winter and you always knew" is still in fine, if more sentimental, form. "A thousand times I've seen you standing/Gravity like lunar landing." Still got it! His musical reemergence must be related to a lost bet.

12. Jason Mraz, "I'm Yours" (Letterman, Monday)
This might shock you, but he was wearing a hat. A three-piece horn section does little to enliven this tepid slice of white-boy reggae-lite. And has anything ever been made better by incorporating a bongo, besides a Matthew McConaughey bonfire?

13. Kenny Chesney, "Better as a Memory" (Conan, Monday)
I'll admit I'm no real fan of country, or whatever genre Chesney belongs to. But this is the one guy who is seemingly impervious to the troubles plaguing the music business? It's not that the song was that bad, it's that it was just barely there. Five guitarists up on stage for a wispy, nothing of a ballad. You can't even call it a ballad because it was lacking in emotion or any real story. A total dud.

14. Shwayze, "Buzzin'" (Kimmel, Tuesday)
ABC ran a test of the Emergency Broadcast System during this performance. Those modem sounds were more interesting than anything in this song, which featured one of those losers from that "The Rock Life" show.

By David Malitz |  July 18, 2008; 9:40 AM ET Hold Steady , Live Last Night, On TV
Previous: Six Questions (And Really, Really Long Answers) With ... Steve Miller | Next: Please Explain to Me ... Kenny Chesney

Comments

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You forgot Rush on Colbert Wednesday.

Posted by: Columbia, MD | July 18, 2008 10:56 AM

1. As a boy, I saw Cocker perform "Love Will Lift us up ..." on Solid Gold and thought, "Ohhhhh, he's RETARDED." I'm not proud of it.

2. I cannot watch the Hold Steady; too awkward.

3. I hate David Letterman (despite the fact that he's giving a lot of love to HS).

Posted by: Jet Age Eric | July 18, 2008 11:18 AM

Who saw the Rush performance? How were they? Did Colbert interview the band members?

Posted by: Analog Kid | July 18, 2008 11:40 AM

"First the ubiquity of that "Our Country" commercial that you finally forgot about until I just mentioned it now (sorry)"

I hate you.

Posted by: KR | July 18, 2008 11:55 AM

I gotta say, I was really annoyed by the way Colbert handled the Rush performance. He interrupted the song a couple times, then went to commercial during the song, and then SIGNED OFF before the song was over. Granted, it was all for "laughs", to make fun of how long Rush's songs are (they showed the end of the song on the next night's episode).

But, come on, this was just stupid. They made a huge deal about this appearance as being Rush's first US TV performance in 30 years, and then they broadcast literally about 40% of the song?

I'm no Rush fanatic, but even so I was a little offended on behalf of the band.

Posted by: Steve | July 18, 2008 12:33 PM

I'm a Rush fanatic, and I thought it was pretty funny (although I would've been peeved if he interrupted "The Camera Eye").

They also continued the joke into the lead in for last night's show.

Analog: The whole show is up at comedycentral.com

Posted by: Hemisphire | July 18, 2008 1:30 PM

You're giving love to John Melloncamp, that jingoistic, middle-of-the-road Springsteen wannabe and yet you continue to claim that you don't see what's so special about Radiohead? What Kool Aid are you sipping Malitz??

Posted by: Adam | July 18, 2008 2:20 PM

And yeah I realize I misspelled Mellencamp, this thing needs an edit feature.

Posted by: Adam | July 18, 2008 2:21 PM

I would rather listen to John Mellencamp than Radiohead...and I don't even like John Mellencamp.

Posted by: Ben W. | July 18, 2008 2:34 PM

don't hate on KT Tunstall, she can't help it that she's Scottish.

funny as always though.

Posted by: msto | July 18, 2008 3:13 PM

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