The Top 10 Late Night Musical Performances of January 2017

Opera, A$AP Mob and a "Goosebumps" performance to remember.
The Top 10 Late Night Musical Performances of January 2017
Travis Scott, performing "Goosebumps" on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Late night has become a convenient delivery device for viral videos: Political statements, party games and wild celebrity anecdotes have become the hallmark of late-night shows, Jimmy-hosted or otherwise. But what often gets lost in the shuffle are the musical performances that bring up the caboose on most of these episodes.

Look at any weekly lineup and you’ll see an interesting mix of flash-in-the-pan sensations, past-their-prime industry vets and acts making their debuts as they ride the wave to becoming household sensations. So below, we’ve gathered ten of our favorites from the first month of 2017.

Pretty Yende sings from “The Barber of Seville”

Show: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
Date: January 3rd
Few late-night shows would return from the end-of-year hiatus with opera selections, but this comes from the same “Late Show” that’s never been afraid to bring classical to the 11:35 crowd. (After all, they prominently featured selections from “An American in Paris” in their second week of shows back when they launched in 2015.) Nevertheless, the list of humans who have the voice control and range to do what Yende does at the end of this is astronomically small.

Glass Animals, “Pork Soda”

Show: The Late Late Show with James Corden
Date: January 4th
It may not be the best song from the British indie pop quartet (“Life Itself” had one of the hookiest choruses of any song from last year), but nothing from this month had the bonkers setup that this Glass Animals performance had. Palm trees, barefoot lead singer, pineapple-shaped shaker? You could watch this on mute and still have tons of fun with it.

Whitney, “Golden Days”

Show: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
Date: January 5th
Love the extra oomph of Chicago pride that Colbert puts in the intro. And it perfectly sets up the laid-back appeal of the song’s sing-along outro. Not many living room hangout performances like this translate well to TV, but this one feels like a spontaneous holiday weekend backyard gig that just happened to be picked up by some broadcast cameras. (Keep it going for one-man horn sections.)

Fantastic Negrito, “Lost in a Crowd”

Show: Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Date: January 5th
Fantastic Negrito (the stage name of singer/songwriter Xavier Dphrepaulezz) is such an engaging performer that his particular brand of blues-adjacent electricity can seep through the TV. It’s a pounding-bass adrenaline shot for all the late-night ABC viewers who otherwise would be nodding off sometime after midnight.

The Flaming Lips, “The Castle”

Show: The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon
Date: January 10th
As far as Flaming Lips sets go, this one is relatively tame. But even without Wayne Coyne traveling over the audience in a giant hamster ball, the band’s still able to bring a psychedelic energy to one of their calmer efforts. A slow, steady build to a great finish, all capped off by the house lights coming up to reveal bassist Michael Ivins in a custom Oklahoma City Thunder jersey. Magical all around.

Stevie Wonder, “Isn’t She Lovely/My Cherie Amour”

Show: The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon
Date: January 11th
Nine days away from the end of her time in the White House, First Lady Michelle Obama got a special, reworked-lyric medley direct from Stevie Wonder himself. Not only a simple, lovely tribute to eight years of service, it’s proof that Stevie still has impressive range four decades after “Songs in the Key of Life.” Her brief “Billy on the Street” stint aside, singing along with “My Cherie Amour” and her hug at the end might be the most endearing comedy show moment from FLOTUS’ tenure.

A$AP Mob, “Crazy Brazy”

Show: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
Date: January 12th
The hospital-inspired production value of this A$AP Mob set is something to behold. With the extras, props and camerawork, this is certainly the performance of the month with the most logistical hurdles. By the time things whip around to reveal the entire studio audience in full costume, it’s clear that one viewing isn’t enough to soak in all the inspired background work on display here.

Nick Grant (feat. Watch the Duck), “Love/Get Up”

Show: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
Date: January 16th
Grant’s intro is a lovely tribute on the MLK holiday. To then segue into a horn-heavy soul groove special makes this a quality late-night two-for-one. Colbert’s big smile at the end speaks for us all. (And any set that closes with the horn riff from “Jungle Boogie” is a winner.)

The Avett Brothers, “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)”

Show: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
Date: January 20th
With nationwide protests set to erupt just a few hours later, this Avett Brothers performance became a quiet Inauguration Night plea. Covering the popular George Harrison single felt like the ideal choice on a night when a stirring, riotous battle cry didn’t feel quite right just yet. With plenty of harmony in more ways than one, it might be the best thing the band’s done since “I And Love And You.”

Travis Scott, “Goosebumps”

Show: Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Date: January 20th
This is pure art. If he stopped at the James Harden shoutout, it would be enough. But the unbridled, auto-tuned passion that comes through when Scott makes his way out in the audience can only come from an artist having the time of his life. (What a difference a month makes!) Add in the dizzy visualizer effects and you have the purest argument for why these shows even have musical guests in the first place.

Honorable Mentions: Sohn (for the green-tinted solo shot), Bash & Pop (for straight-up tackling Colbert before he could finish his sign-off), SZA (for getting a response from her song’s namesake on an entirely different show), Foxygen (for winning January’s Polyphonic Spree Award for Most Band Members Visible on One Screen)

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