Bradley Cooper‘s Monday night appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon happened to coincide with his 40th birthday, and to celebrate, the actor got the chance to show off his little-known musical talents. Rather than sitting in with The Roots or singing a duet with Fallon, though, Cooper busted out an impeccable recreation of Neil Young‘s solo on “Down By the River” — on air guitar.
Wearing a special birthday visor/afro combo given to him by Fallon during an earlier bit, Cooper could barely keep a straight face as he told the host about memorizing the “Down By the River” solo as a kid, before qualifying: “Of course people memorize [Young’s] guitar because he’s amazing, but to air guitar it — it’s so meaningless!”
As it turned out, the actor was selling his fake six-string skills short. Casually asking Fallon to turn up the volume throughout the solo, a too cool Cooper strutted around the set and into the audience as he mimed Young’s sharp staccato strokes and electric-shock noodling, accentuating each sustained note with the overzealousness of a true guitar hero.
Though air guitar may be his real calling, Cooper’s still holding down his day job. The actor is earning critical acclaim for his portrayal of United States Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the self-proclaimed most lethal sniper in U.S. history, in Clint Eastwood’s latest film, American Sniper. In his review of the film, Rolling Stone‘s Peter Travers praised Cooper, saying he “gives everything and then some in an astonishing, all-out performance. Cooper put on 40 pounds of muscle to play Kyle, a flag-waving, good ol’ Texas boy who sees evil in the world and aims to do something about it.”