When I first heard that The Roots were going to be the "house band" for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, I was pretty excited. A great launching point for new artists, it's one of the best backup bands out there. (If you haven't seen it, check out Michel Gondry's great concert film, Dave Chappelle's Block Party.)
Naturally, I assumed The Roots could serve that function on the late-night circuit; that is, when a musical guest comes to perform, the collaboration would make it something special.
It hasn't totally worked out that way. Outside of a handful of guests like Ludacris, The Lonely Island and The Beastie Boys, who've taken advantage of appearing alongside the band — and the occasional slow-jamming of the news — The Roots' immense talent (and ?uestlove and Black Thought in particular) has seemed a bit wasted since Fallon took the reins from Conan O'Brien earlier this spring.
But last night, Paul Simon made his appearance so much more exciting than the typical, perfunctory plug of a new album. Simon performed a great rendition of "Late in the Evening" (from One Trick Pony), backed by The Roots and a stellar horn section from the Brooklyn-based Afrobeat band Antibalas.
More artists should take their cue from Paul Simon (they should anyway, on many things) when they appear on late-night talk shows. Original musical team-ups can be incredibly fun, while giving the audience something they can't see or hear anywhere else. It can create an inspired and exciting television experience.
If you could pick an artist to sit in with The Roots on Late Night, who would be a good fit musically? Who would you like to see?