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It has begun. Last night, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon debuted with a fitting hand-off from Conan O’Brien and rollicking performances by the show’s house band, The Roots. But how did Fallon do?
The show was a mixed bag, but that’s expected for at least a few weeks. Conan O’Brien struggled for years before settling comfortably into his role, and it’ll likely take Fallon, who was visibly anxious throughout the episode, several episodes to be confident, too.
But while Fallon looked timid throughout (he even laughed one second into his “Space Train” skit with Robert DeNiro, a Fallon trademark from the SNL era), The Roots were consummate professionals.
Opening and closing the show with remixed versions of their 2006 song “Here I Come,” the band was tight, and showed their chops playing everything from corny game show music, to spot-on, improvised covers of songs by The BeeGees, John Mayer, and others during Justin Timberlake’s interview:
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Strangely, The Roots are way too huge for the strange set they are a part of. While the set’s New Orleans style is funky and appropriate for the band, keyboardists James Poyser and Kamal sit on a balcony away from view, and Tuba Gooding Jr., bassist Owen Biddle, and guitarist Captain Kirk are relegated to a corner, while drummer ?uestlove, percussionist Frank Knuckles, and rapper (now singer) Black Thought (or Tariq, as Fallon called him) dominate a much-too-small band stage.
Ultimately, as Fallon’s confidence improves, the show will get tighter, and funnier. But for now, the spot-on professionalism of The Roots may be the anchor that holds the show together until Fallon gets comfortable.
For complete episodes of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, check out NBC’s web site.