As if Jimmy Fallon’s too-close-for-comfort impressions of Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young on Late Night didn’t reveal the talk-show host’s undying love of music, the new Tonight Show host kicked off his run with a typically loud hour of rocking and mocking. It was the first Tonight Show to be taped in New York City in more than four decades and featured, in addition to Fallon’s in-house band the Roots, an interview with Will Smith, a performance by U2 and a parade of celebrities including Robert De Niro, Stephen Colbert, Mariah Carey and Lady Gaga. Over the course of an hour, Fallon’s love of music imbued the whole program. Here are the six best musical moments from the fist-ever Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
1. Bono Serenades Questlove During Acoustic “Ordinary Love”
In the evening’s final segment, Fallon convinced U2 to perform an “impromptu” acoustic rendition of “Ordinary Love,” the group’s Golden Globe–winning track currently up for an Oscar, that included Fallon lending the Edge his “personal” guitar and Bono giving Fallon a (RED) guitar. Near the end of the jam, Bono requested a little accompaniment from the Roots who naturally fell into the groove. Feeling impassioned, the singer singled out one of the Roots in particular with some subbed lyrics: “We cannot reach any higher, if we can’t deal with . . . Questlove.” Bono said the drummer/bandleader’s name several times and Quest just smiled. Toward the end of the broadcast, Questlove, who claimed to have gotten 110,000 new followers on Twitter in the first half-hour of the show, summed up his shout-out as “the most magical moment EVER.”
2. Bono Toasts a Coffee Mug
In U2’s show-closing segment, Fallon played off the Mandela connection to “Ordinary Love,” and coaxed Bono into giving a speech about his coffee cup. “I can only give speeches about things I believe in,” said Bono at first. “But I believe in this cup. And it’s not a cup, really. It’s a container. It demands to be filled. It could be filled by love or bad thoughts and in fact this cup was held in the hand of Nelson Mandela.” Fallon interjected, “Now you’re making it up.” Guest Will Smith just laughed. Nevertheless, Bono continued to ham it up for hilarity: “This is when he gave his famous speech, yes he did, he said, ‘She’s a bad girl.” The singer just smiled as Fallon laughed.
3. Will Smith, Jimmy Fallon and the “Evolution of Hip-Hop Dancing”
In one of the show’s early skits, Fallon and Smith donned pale overalls with one arm clasp undone to demonstrate dances like “The Robot,” the “Humpty Dance” and a callback to Smith’s past on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, “The Carlton.”
4. U2 Host a Drumline on the Roof of 30 Rock During “Invisible”
Midway through the episode, Fallon took the show to the roof of Rockefeller Center to show off New York City and U2. The group played their recent single “Invisible,” with a little help from the Rutgers University drumline on either side of drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. Bono came from the wings and pounded his fist into his hand, feeling pumped up to be playing for the intimate crowd. The aerial shots of the crowd jumping in such a small space made for one of the most dramatic U2 visuals since they played on a roof for “Where the Streets Have No Name.“
5. Will Smith’s New Smiths Shirt
Two minutes into his interview with Will Smith, Fallon told the actor, “I’ve got something for you,” and he pulled out a T-shirt repping Morrissey and the Smiths. “This was a very emo band, but it’s a pretty cool shirt,” Fallon said as Smith laughed. “You can get it at Hot Topic.” But then he pulled out a shirt that isn’t so readily available, with the same typeface and even the same band logo, “The Smiths.” The photo, of course, was of Will and his wife and kids. Smith just laughed and said thank you as Fallon gave him shirts for the whole family.
6. Lady Gaga and Maria Carey Fork Over $100 Each to Fallon
As part of the show’s intro, Fallon said his buddy had bet him $100 he’d never be the host of The Tonight Show. A parade of celebrities subsequently brought out brand-new Benjamins (or in the case of Stephen Colbert a bucket of shiny copper Abrahams). Among celebs like De Niro, Tina Fey and Kim Kardashian, a single-gloved Mariah Carey received big cheers during her appearance, as did Lady Gaga, who wore pitch-black sunglasses, fishnet body suit and five-foot hair extensions. She whispered something in Fallon’s ear that made him smile and sauntered off into Gagaland.