Published Dec 31, 2009Okay, we all know that live TV appearances by our favourite bands are usually a letdown. Either the band will just play a by-the-numbers version of their hit song, dumb down or censor their own lyrics, or generally put in a blah performance. And, yes, usually the live sound on TV utterly blows. We'll never forget the time we got all excited about Rage Against the Machine being on Saturday Night Live, imagining them overthrowing the system in one fell swoop, but instead being generally disappointed that the extent of their muckracking involved an upside down flag on Tom Morello's guitar amp. Lame.
But sometimes bands will actually try something a little different with their airtime. And then there's the glorious times where they take it that one step further and do something particularly weird and/or amazing. So here are just five really awesome moments in live music television.
5. The Dillinger Escape Plan - Live on Conan O'Brien
This song is ridiculous enough on album, but hearing it live with that horribly tinny live TV sound just pushes this over the edge of jarring, grating and scary sounding. When bands like the Dillinger Escape Plan play to a viewership in the millions it makes us wonder about the affect that has on our collective psyche? Like, is the world really ready for this? Will the planet implode under the weight of windmill guitar heroics and muscle-bound, guttural screams? Our favourite part is when Dillinger yeller Greg Puciato runs into the audience and starts randomly high-fiving old dudes. Oh, yeah, and that over-the-top freakout session at the end is pretty cool, too. TV never gets much better than this.
4. Flight of the Conchords - Live on Craig Ferguson
Yeah, it's those two New Zealand comedy TV musician dudes doing that hip-hop song, but check out this live TV version, most notably the "freestyle" section. Not nearly as harsh or intense as the Dillinger clip, but it still sends chills up our spines in that "can they really do this on television?" kinda way. Now if we could only convince these guys to do a third season of that damn show of theirs.
3. Rollins Band - Live on MuchMusic
Okay, disturbia time. It's Rollins Band in their prime, playing live in Toronto at the MuchMusic studios in the early '90s. We haven't seen nor heard from this clip in a long, long time, but it often haunts our dreams to this day. Some seriously weird shit goes down here, courtesy of Mr. Black Flag himself; first in the "you talkin' to me" ode to Taxi Driver, which still sends major chills up our spines, then in the extendo-jam "bad, bad monkey" section that seems to last an eternity. And to think all of this went down in the middle of the day inside MuchMusic with a bunch of office drones wandering in and out of Rollins ground zero. Ah, Hank... we love you for your repeated attempts to subvert regular society with your man-monkey rantings.
2. At the Drive-In - Live on Jools Holland
Any time these guys went on TV, it was a flurry of afros and hilarious herky-jerk dance moves. And often we were scared for their, and the TV audiences', lives. This performance on a popular UK variety show is particularly unhinged, to the point of the band teetering on the edge of completely falling apart. Still, despite the craziness, it sounds amazing. Unfortunately, North American audiences didn't get to catch this one when it aired, but the band did pop up on David Letterman a few weeks later with a slightly tamer version (which, when it comes to this band, is still pretty fucking exceptional). We can only imagine Paul Schaeffer trying his damnedest to air-keyboard to this one while wondering what the fuck was going on.
1. Faith No More - Hangin' with MTV
And, last but not least, we have everyone's favourite black sheep alternative rockers, Faith No More, during their Angel Dust heyday. These guys are pretty much the kings of awkward/thrilling live television moments, like the time singer Mike Patton climbed into a gigantic oscillating fan vent on their performance of "Epic" on Saturday Night Live (of which no YouTube evidence seems to exist anymore, damn!). But this particular little nasty on Hangin' with MTV is a whole other beast. The amped-up versions of their Angel Dust hits are wild enough, but check out what happens with around 1:20 left in this video when the oblivious MTV veejay tries her best to deal with the, ahem, uncooperative interview subjects in FNM.