What’s Your Favorite Televised Musical Performance?

Noisey published an article a few days ago examining some of the most memorable performances that have graced our TV’s over the years and I thought it was interesting to ponder, especially given the amount of late night talk shows and awards shows I watch pretty regularly.

There’s a sort of emotional disconnect you feel watching it from your couch as opposed to getting caught up in the energy of the crowd, so I think it takes a little extra for a band/artist to make a solid impression. Anyone have anything that had an impact on them? Do you think we could stand to see more programming with a Musical focus? Are you a staunch believer in the purity of the live performance and concert experience?

Oh and to kick it off I’d have to go with this King Krule performance on Letterman from a few years back. I remember I was reading something and had the TV on in the background and immediately turned it up and started paying attention when I heard his voice. Something genuinely unique and captivating about it. Been a fan ever since.


It’s weird how much work TV has to put into music production to get live performances to play anything like they would in person with even the most stripped-down setups. Heck, SNL’s been doing live music for 40 years and I don’t know that they’ve ever gotten it to sound quite right to me.
The Letterman show managed to do it more often than not, though! I love this performance of Janelle Monae’s “Tightrope”:




This needs to be in this thread:

In the UK we’ve got Later with Jools Holland, which is neat, as a live musical performance focused thing. It is overwhelmingly white and middle-brow-rock-y, and Jools is kinda insufferable as a host and/or human, but I appreciate it.


For people of a certain age and… demographic, I think there’s only one answer: Nirvana Unplugged. And for emotional resonance, there’s one song. God, I still get chills every time.


Looking back on his show over the years, Letterman had a real enthusiasm for the musical guests he featured which I really appreciated. Was never a huge fan of him as a host but there was a great assortment of artists he booked over his career.

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They Might Be Giants doing Birdhouse in Your Soul backed by the Tonight Show Band is one of my favorites:


Yooooo I had not seen this King Krule performance, and I’m currently totally in love with The Ooz, his latest, so thank you.

For my part, the stand out that I jump to a lot is the Kendrick/Imagine Dragons performance from 2014…

…which is shocking, since I hated that Imagine Dragons track before this. But I left the performance not only blown away by Kendrick (who I’d expected would crush it) but also by their commitment and energy. What a great act. (Edit: GOD I forgot this verse K Dot added to this. SO good.)

Also, @futureperf your Janelle call out reminded me of this incredible performance she did of I Want You Back:


This performance of Paranoia where Chance is backed up by The Social Experiment is so, so strong. Nico kills it on the trumpet.


I remember watching this and seeing Imagine Dragons and their big ridiculous drums and just getting ready to endure that god-forsaken song, but by the end of this I was impressed. Better than it had any right to be.

This performance on Letterman is infectious. He gets so into, you can see he’s thrilled to ask them to do it all over again… that’s what makes it stick, that it was THAT GOOD that Letterman asked for an immediate encore.


Oh this is fantastic. My favorite version of this live is this one, which has such a heavy atmosphere due to the venue intimacy and the specific folks he has backing him:


I’ve only ever seen clips here and there of this show and it seemed pretty alright. I was gonna ask for specifics about how annoying Holland is as a host but the Wikipedia page just gave me my answer:

“Holland often also accompanies his guests’ performances, with mixed results – Mark E. Smith of the Fall insisted that he would only appear on the show if Holland would promise not to play piano over any of his songs.” Amazing.

Chance is fucking fire.

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I’m going to cheat and pick two performances.

The first is Weezer’s 1995 performance of “Say It Ain’t So” on Letterman. Rivers had just had surgery on his leg and was wearing a clunky leg brace underneath his giant khakis, so rumor has it that he told his bandmates to put on an energetic show to distract people from his leg. It may not be the best performance ever, but '90s Weezer is my band and this perfectly encapsulates their best era.

My other pick is less sentimental than the first. It’s TV On The Radio’s performance of “Wolf Like Me,” also on Letterman. It’s just fucking phenomenal. So much energy. I wish I could live inside this performance.


Oh my god that TV On The Radio performance is incredible. I’ve been listening to them for a while but haven’t seen that before.

Keeping on the Letterman train: The Beastie Boys doing Sabotage on his show is great.


Oh also I should throw this one out here because I’m still stunned this happened? Can only imagine the network executive’s faces when they saw it.


A recently discovered favorite of mine from a TV program is Glenn Gould’s contraFUNKtus 2:

really love every bit of the 1 hour special it’s from that gives great perspective on Bach’s fugues. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exD8bhJP1eo

Ill admit to not having seen that many but a friend of mine showed me M.I.A.'s performance on Jools Holland, especially Born Free, and it was pretty excellent.