Saturday Night Live hasn’t had 100 percent success with musical guests over the years (Dare I mention Ashley Simpson’s performance?) but one can’t deny that there have been some truly memorable acts in the show’s history. FDRMX counts down the 5 best musical performances from SNL.
Simon and Garfunkel (1975)
An extremely awkward but no doubt cherished reunion between the recently (and bitterly) Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon opens the list. It’s not so much the performance that lands the number 5 slot so much as the fact that the performance took place at all. Garfunkel and Simon avoid eye contact throughout this entire performance. It would remain their last major performance together until their official Central Park reunion in 1981.
SNL serves as a good way of seeing which bands have “made it” in the public eye. Nirvana’s appearance on the show not only further legitimized the band but also the entire genre of Grunge music. A few weeks later Pearl Jam would continue to emphasize Grunge music’s staying power. The double threat of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and the underappreciated “Territorial Pissings” makes this one of the best filmed Nirvana performances, of which there are sadly too few. Today it still serves as a tragic reminder of what was lost from Cobain’s suicide. Speaking of the future of Nirvana…
Tom Petty and Dave Grohl (1994)
The performance itself is relatively standard (Tom Petty did a much better performance on the show in 1979) but Dave Grohl’s involvement so soon after Cobain’s death casts an intriguing shadow over the performance. Petty would later ask Grohl to join his band permanently but the drummer refused, instead interested in starting a little band called Foo Fighters. This concert serves as an interesting look into what could have been had Grohl accepted Petty’s offer.
Luciano Pavarotti and Vanessa Williams (1998)
An absolute powerhouse performance and by far the most memorable of the show’s Christmas musical acts. Do we even need to explain why its so good? Williams’s voice is wonderfully complimented against the band behind her while Pavarotti is friggin’ Pavarotti.
Elvis Costello (1977)
The performance that got Costello banned from the show for 23 years. Both Lorne Michaels and Columbia records had sternly forbid Costello from performing the anti-media hit song “Radio, Radio”. For a moment it looked as if Costello would listen, but a few seconds into “Less Than Zero” Costello transitioned into the song. It took over two decades, but Costello made his grand return to the show by sabotaging the Beastie Boys’s “Sabotage” with his iconic song.