“Saturday Night Live” Makes Yet Another Decent Band Sound Like Ass

mariasci | February 9, 2009 11:30 am
TV on the Radio were the musical guests on Saturday Night Live this weekend. They’re a seasoned band whose live show tends to get rapturous reviews, and they were slated to play songs from the album that got the top spot in the most recent edition of the Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics’ poll. You would think, then, that the performance would be a triumph—but instead, it was a trainwreck. The dude with the beard (note: I am not a big TVOTR fan) had his vocals reduced to a thin chirp, the bass lacked any bottom end, the handclaps were seen but not heard… and then the horns came in.

I like “Golden Age.” The point on the chorus when the horns come in is a great little moment and does really pick everything up a bit. But on SNL, the brass obliterated everything else in its path. Worse, they seemed to be either out-of-tune or differently arranged, clashing painfully with the vocal line. Who knows why—maybe the monitors were off, maybe there was an ill-advised last-minute change—but it turned the triumphant energy of the song into something that more closely resembled a performance by an experimental high school marching band. This seems to be a regular problem for SNL, but why? The show has a reputation as one of the few places still booking interesting musical acts, but then whoever’s working the sound can’t seem to let the quality translate. What gives?

TV On The Radio – “Golden Age” SNL 2/7/09 [YouTube]