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The Top 10 Musical Performances on Late Night TV of 2007

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10. Peter, Bjorn & John feat. Victoria Bergsman “Young Folks” from Late Night with Conan O’Brien 01/29/2007

Does anyone remember the embarrassingly unimportant issue of Peter, Bjorn & John using a whistle track during their live performances? ‘Round the turn of the new year, just as the band was breaking the American market, things got a bit out of control on the matter. Idolator got in on the matter wittingly coining it “whistlegate.” Then-Idolator editor Brian Raferty mocked, “clearly, this is just the sort of important, generation-defining debate that will shape the indie-rock community for weeks–if not years–to come.” If only the year produced a dozen more stories half as scandalous as this we wouldn’t have had to spend the past six months continually analyzing Amy Winehouse’s drug addiction.

9. Gogol Bordello “Wonderlust King” from The Late Show with David Letterman 07/31/2007

Gogol Bordello makes an appearance on the list partially due to the group’s inclusion of Frodo Baggins-flame Pamela Racine. The beauty is one of the act’s (hardly) backup singers that bounces about the stage, helping the band induce a level of energy and sincerity that The Late Show had seen for quite some time.

8. Feist feat. members of Mates of State, The National, Grizzly Bear, Broken Social Scene, The New Pornographers amongst others “1234″ from The Late Show with David Letterman 08/27/2007

Before Leslie Feist’s “1234″ hit Saturday Night Live and adorned Apple’s Nano commercial she was making waves all abouts the interwebs with her fantastic album The Reminder. This performance came as a surprise to most who probably were alike in expecting anything but an all-star indie rock line up to serve as supporting cast to the burgeoning star for a national television audience. Whatever the goal – it worked, The Remindercan now be purchased from Target cash register kiosks nationwide.

7. The Arcade Fire “Intervention” & “Keep The Car Running” from Saturday Night Live 02/24/2007

Though not a single-song-performance (the only such entry on the list) Arcade Fire’s only American late night television spot in 2007 came from the Rainn Wilson hosted edition of Saturday Night Live this past February. Was Neon Bible near the album that the pre-release hype made it out to be? Not really, but how many albums released in modern times have had their own 1-800 number? All that aside, these two songs give a beautiful insight for those who were unfortunate enough to have not had the opportunity to see the band live this year. And when was the last time that you saw an “unscripted” guitar smashing on SNL in the show recently? Try never – that’s when.

6. Ted Leo “Me and Mia” from 24 Hours of Human Giant 05/19/2007

While not technically a ‘late night performance’ the twenty four hour marathon hosted by MTV to help garner interest in the channel’s cutting edge sketch com show Human Giant did have a lot of great performances (some of which did actually occur late at night). But amongst Tapes ‘n Tapes, The National and even Mastodon Ted Leo stood Pharmacists-less and gave the crowd one hell of a show…for a while…until his pedals malfunctioned. But that didn’t stop him as he continued singing an off-the-top-of-his-head verse in hopes that someone would reach out and hit said pedal – in the process Leo not only saved the performance but made it the most memorable of the event.

5. Tori Amos “Big Wheel” from The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson 05/17/2007

In regards to that previously mentioned hype that backfired slightly on Neon Bible, well…sometimes it’s such a hype machine that can really get them big wheels in motion (I’m sorry). Back in May, just as her latest release American Doll Posse was hitting the shelves Amos hit the often overlooked Late Late Show to perform the record’s first single. What’s so special about that, you ask? (Not to underscore Amos’ brilliant, sexual, powerful performance…but…) Quentin Tarantino. The man who many people admire, and just as many people cannot stand delivered one of the hype-iest, most energetic (and dead on) introductions that I’ve heard and/or seen in quite some time. And for those of you who are in that “cannot stand the man” bubble, you can fast forward past that part and just read what he said here:

“I love women, and I love music. Whether it’s R&B, Japanese punk or ballads of Mongolian shepherd tribes – you put a lady on the mic and I am there. And I like my ladies with some attitude, that’s why I love Tori Amos. When she was eleven she got kicked out of music school for playing rock and roll. She’s the chanteuse who got the balls to cover Eminem, and she’s here tonight to play ‘Big Wheel’ off her new album American Doll Posse – so put your hands together for the one, the only, Tori Amos.”

4. The White Stripes “Effect & Cause” from Late Night with Conan O’Brien 06/18/2007

After destroying the show with “Icky Thump” The White Stripes did something that would serve well as a kick-off for the many ‘hands-on’ performances the duo gave as they toured across Canada and its territories by playing in and amongst Conan’s audience. This is great for two reasons: firstly because it’s just such a great track, secondly because much of the audience looks oh-so not into it. Oh how I wish I was there.

3. Justice “D.A.N.C.E.” from Jimmy Kimmel Live 10/09/2007

Technically, one might not call this a music performance as the music playing is all-prerecorded and isn’t really tweaked live for the television audience…but my friends, a performance it is. Count ‘em – five of the most outrageous celebrity look-a-likes playing the role of band as Justice’s fantastic “D.A.N.C.E.” plays overhead. Prince, Rod Stewart, Rick James Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson all swarm the stage playing their respective rolls…but if you’re looking for the lads in the group…be sure to pay close attention as the track begins on the side stage. As Kimmel himself notes prior to the performance – “this is gonna be weird.”

2. Kanye West “Champion/Everything I Am” from Saturday Night Live 09/29/2007

Is Kanye cocky? Absolutely. Does Kanye deserve some of the criticism he gets? No doubt. Have I drank the Kool-Aid? Maybe…but whether or not any of that is relevant Kanye’s two songs performed on SNL this past September proved him a ballsy performer. Meshing “Champion” with the follow-up track “Everything I Am” Kanye found himself a little behind the ball as he struggled to get his lines out in time. Just as he started losing it however, Kanye got into what I like to call “America doesn’t care about Kanye” mode (where he works his best) and eventually freestyled a third of his performance on live television, “I just messed up on my rap, live TV like damn.” While it’s not the best performance, per say, he not only kept clearheaded enough to not only pull shots at 50 Cent, but he ended by lyrically playing it off like he had planned it all along.

1. Feist “I Feel It All” from Jimmy Kimmel Live 05/15/2007

Well before crashing the stage of The Late Show with an army of indie rock elite, Leslie Feist and her band played Jimmy Kimmel Live…from a city bus. The concept behind it is about as brilliant as the toned down, campire feel the band gives the song. And just think, had the bus driver not been as attentive to the road, had the bus driver taken a few extra glances at the performance…there would be no iPod ad, no SNLperformance, no Late Show set and no Mad TV parody…God bless you Erskins!