John Prine brought his characteristic charm and humor to The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on Monday, performing the song “When I Get to Heaven.” The tune closes his 2018 album The Tree of Forgiveness.
With its alternating spoken and sung full-band passages, “When I Get to Heaven” is staged with a little theatrical flair for Prine’s Tonight Show performance. Under a single spotlight on a darkened stage, Prine ruminates on what he’ll do if and when he reaches paradise in the afterlife, with only some atmospheric instrumental backing. Each time he reaches a chorus, the entire stage is illuminated to reveal his full band, adding some joyous oomph to the bit about a “cigarette that’s nine miles long.” Prine even gets a little assist from Tonight Show house band the Roots, who — along with Fallon — handle the song’s whimsical kazoo-led instrumental section.
Released earlier in 2018, The Tree of Forgiveness debuted with first-week sales of 54,000 units, a career-high number for Prine. In September, the Americana Music Association named him the Artist of the Year at its annual Awards & Honors. Before the end of 2018, Prine will share concert bills with Nathaniel Rateliff, Conor Oberst and John Paul White, closing out the year in style at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry House on December 31st.