CoS Exclusive FeaturesList 'Em Carefully

Saturday Night Live’s Top Musical Performances

on May 14, 2014, 1:30pm
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Saturday Night Live has been an American late-night institution for nearly 40 years. In that time, its performers have gone on to become mega superstars and some of comedy’s brightest lights: Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Eddie Murphy, and Chris Rock to name a few. But aside from making stars of hard-working comedians, it has also become a showcase for some of the best musical artists in history.

It’s a proving ground for hot young bands and a special spot for reunions and collaborations. Sometimes the heated stage in studio 8H can be too much to handle (Lana Del Rey) or too small for chaos (The Replacements). Regardless of which side bands fall on, it all comes down to the moment the cameras go live and millions of people across the country tune in to see the antics.

During those 40 years, some major performances have gone down in 8H, but this list is our collection of some of our favorites. They’re memorable for either their incredible showmanship or for their cultural impact. Most of these bands went on to worldwide stardom, but some would never return to SNL’s limelight. Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below.

–Nick Freed
Senior Staff Writer

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Anonymous
July 15, 2014 at 10:11 pm

the video for the white stripes performance doesnt work

Jolly
July 11, 2014 at 7:13 pm

Pearl Jam and Faith No More.

viachicago
July 11, 2014 at 6:47 pm

Idiotheque was great but I probably would have chosen Radiohead’s performance of The National Anthem on the same telecast.

viachicago
July 11, 2014 at 7:06 pm

Actually, watching both again, they’re equally great.

nocturn
July 11, 2014 at 6:21 pm

FEAR, ainec.

squidandthewhale
July 11, 2014 at 6:18 pm

When this list is remade in a couple years, the St. Vincent performance of “Birth in Reverse” will definitely be on it.

http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/st-vincent-birth-in-reverse/2783139#i

Alskiz
May 17, 2014 at 7:40 pm

That Radiohead performance was UNBELIEVABLE! thanks for the list CoS

Richard
May 16, 2014 at 1:09 am

Did the editor limit you here? Sort of an epic fail… No Gary Numan, Specials, DEVO, Bowie w/ Klaus Nomi and Joey Arias, Arcade Fire in 2007, Patti Smith, Costello/Beastie Boys 25th Anniversary Tribute.

Nick Freed
May 16, 2014 at 9:27 am

We definitely looked at all of these. Arcade Fire is great, but try finding a video of it ANY where online. Trust me. I dug to the deepest trenches. Also we included the Costello/Beastie Boys one on the Costello entry. Great picks though! Thanks for reading!

Anonymous
May 15, 2014 at 4:52 pm

How’d The Replacements get left off the list?

Believe they got banned as well.

Nick Freed
May 16, 2014 at 9:28 am

Replacement was indeed memorable, but the performance was so all over the place that it didn’t really seem like the best showing. At least with Costello and O’Connor they had great performances to go along with their banning. Thanks for reading!

Anonymous
May 15, 2014 at 9:29 am

No love for Frank Ocean?

Paul Kelly
May 14, 2014 at 10:32 pm

Prince – “Fury”

INSANE.

Wayne Carter
May 14, 2014 at 9:00 pm

Bowie – unforgettable with Klaus Nomi and Joey Arias
Gary Numan
The B-52’s

Fred
May 14, 2014 at 6:27 pm

No clue… This is what a kickass LIVE performance looks like.

http://www.rocktube.us/Videos/Rage_Against_the_Machine___Bulls_on_Parade_Live-asQGyS876uz.html

Anonymous
May 14, 2014 at 6:04 pm

New York Hardcore?? Fear was from California. Half those kids on the stage were from DC. That’s Ian MacKaye shouting new york sucks. I guess it sorta represented NY hXc. I guess.

Anonymous
May 14, 2014 at 4:57 pm

Queen had a solid performance medley of songs. Freddie actually sang and the band actually played their instruments!

Anonymous
May 14, 2014 at 4:10 pm

Ashlee Simpson?

Anonymous
May 16, 2014 at 12:47 pm

i know! smh!!

DONTSPOOKTHEHORSE
May 14, 2014 at 4:04 pm

Neil Young: Right guy, wrong performance, although this one is indeed lovely. But it doesn’t hold a candle to the way he smashed through the screen on 9/30/89 with “Rockin’ In The Free World” along with Poncho Sampedro, Charley Drayton on bass and Steve Jordan on drums. Probably the most pulverizing, intense musical performance I’ve ever seen on TV. See for yourself: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x5lwon_neil-young-keep-on-rockin-in-the-fr_music

Michael Roffman
May 14, 2014 at 5:37 pm

This one is my favorite too.

Jackie Kent
May 14, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Kate Bush’s only US appearance was on SNL in 1978. She sat atop Paul Shaffer’s piano singing The Man with the Child in His Eyes. Years later, I heard Shaffer quip that was the greatest performance on SNL.

Anonymous
May 14, 2014 at 3:56 pm

Kate Bush’s only US appearance was on SNL in 1978. She sat atop Paul Shaffer’s piano singing The Man with the Child in His Eyes. Years later, I heard Shaffer quip that was the greatest performance on SNL.

jupiter8
May 14, 2014 at 3:43 pm

The Specials performance was a great, spiky performance of an amped up band knocking into one another on a tiny stage…bonus great intro by Strother Martin! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ssInOB-aoA

Ben
May 14, 2014 at 3:05 pm

How about the Faith No More performance when Mike Patton swings from the chandelier upside down? Good list. I had never seen the Radiohead performance before. Far out.

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