"The best late night band in the business," Jimmy Fallon exclaimed as he exited a break in his first show since taking over for Conan O'Brien. And this isn't hyperbole.
I watched in anticipation early this morning seeing just how the legendary Roots crew be used.
What they weren't is Paul Shafer's sideshow or the punch line of the Max Weinberg 7. But they did provide some comic relief. The highlight of the night came in their role in Fallon's "Slow Jamming the News," where Fallon took on the passage of the latest stimulus package on the Capitol and said it with a slow, sultry voice backed by a Barry White-esque jam provided by The Roots crew. Black Thought's sexing up of Nancy Pelosi and another lawmaker who "added an amendment" was priceless.
They also salvaged Fallon's ridiculous game of "Lick it for $10" where three contestants would lick some kind of product for $10 and The Roots would then provide the soundtrack to the slo-mo replay with another slow groove to make it seem darn near pornographic.
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Fallon looked over multiple times almost in disbelief as The Roots played. Which seems appropriate as these guys can play anything. Another highlight on the reel came when he asked guest Justin Timberlake to sing a jingle for Bud Light Lime in the voice of Michael McDonald. They jumped in with zero hesitation. They also provided a good Bee Gees lick when Fallon and Timberlake did a re-creation of their beloved "SNL" skit where they play the Gibb brothers as talk show hosts.
I read an interview last week with Roots drummer ?uestlove, saying they at first hesitated fearing the fallout and namecalling from other music industry leaders as them selling out. But once they got over that and realized they had a chance to really do something fresh they jumped on board.
So glad they did. While Fallon seemed even more nervous than his usual shtick comes across and he's got a lot of growing to do, it was a hopeful start to a new era in late night. And I'm certainly not going to complain about getting to see the best rap group in the land five nights a week.