When it rains, it pours, and late-night TV hosted a surfeit of noteworthy performers last night. Feist visited Tonight Show With Jay Leno, the Shins stopped by Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Alabama Shakes rocked Late Show With David Letterman, and Arctic Monkeys conquered Conan. Oh, what's the matter, Jimmy Fallon? All you could come up remotely music-related with was a hilarious #FriedChickenBattle between the Roots' ?uestlove and David Chang, the chef behind New York's Momofuku restaurants? OK, well played, Fallon. Well played.
First, Feist (via the Audio Perv). The singer-songwriter appeared on Leno backed by anything but the usual singer-songwriter setup. With a horn section, strings, more percussionists than you could shake a stick at, a crowd of backing vocalists, and more, Leslie Feist gave an emphatic rendition of knotty Metals opener "The Bad in Each Other." A long chain jangled from her neon-scrawled acoustic guitar, but sadly Feistodon will have to wait. (Read our fall 2011 profile of Feist here.)
Over on Kimmel, fellow subtle melody-wielders the Shins played "The Rifle's Spiral" and "Simple Song," both from new album Port of Morrow, which recently cracked the Top 10. The performance is as graceful and polished as the Shins' other recent live clips, though frontman James Mercer's unshaven scruff gives him a disconcerting Adam Levine-ish quality — we think that's a compliment, James! "You're not invisible now, you just don't exist," he murmurs, and Jimmy Kimmel's life changes. (SPIN recently interviewed the Shins maestro, and you can read it here.)
Recent SPIN Breaking Out subjects Alabama Shakes, whose Jack White-approved Boys & Girls we rather liked, wowed birthday boy Letterman with the throwback rootsiness of "Hold On" (via the Audio Perv). There's a down-to-earth visual aesthetic that brings to British folk-poppers the Magic Numbers, except singer-guitarist Brittany Howard's howl shows what that band was missing — a voice that's a force of nature.
Last but not least, Arctic Monkeys, fresh off of headlining Lollapalooza's South American fests, crashed Conan. The increasingly brawny Brits performed scorching rocker "R U Mine?," with frontman Alex Turner in the leather jacket to match. Points to host Conan O'Brien for being sure to hold up the Record Store Day colored vinyl 7" — how often do you see a 45 RPM single on TV these days? About as often as you see a drummer like the Arctics' Matt Helders, probably. (Go backstage at the band's recent Madison Square Garden gig.)
As for Fallon, a celebrity panel of Tina Fey, Mad Men's John Flannery, and the late-night show's own Steve Higgins was on hand to judge the fried chicken of the Roots drummer (which we've sampled! and chef Chang. No spoilers, but Fey was characteristically hilarious, and now we're hungry. And to think, the Roots' annual Picnic is still months away.