10 Great Metal Performances on Late-Night Talk Shows — Video

1. Mastodon – “Curl of the Burl” (The Late Show With David Letterman, 2011)

This Letterman appearance wasn’t Mastodon’s first. But as the host said in his introduction, “They’ve been on the program before…the response was so tremendous we said, ‘By god, we’re gonna have them back.’ ”

2. Slayer – “Seasons in the Abyss” (The Jon Stewart Show, 1995)

Slayer went on ‘The Jon Stewart Show’ to promote their new album, Divine Intervention. What they played, however, was an awesome (if abbreviated) version of “Seasons in the Abyss.” For good measure, they threw in some “Raining Blood” over the closing credits.

3. Megadeth – “Hangar 18” (The Arsenio Hall Show, 1990)

Megadeth turned in a ferocious performance of “Hangar 18” on The Arsenio Hall Show. But even if they hadn’t, it was worth it just to see Hall hold up a copy of Rust in Peace during his intro.

4. At the Drive-In – “One-Armed Scissor” (The Late Show with Conan O’Brien, 2000)

In 2000 At the Drive-In turned in maybe the most raucous performance ever on a late night talk show, performing “One-Armed Scissor” as frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala launched himself off the drum kit, writhed around on the ground, and literally climbed the walls. Before the song even ends, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez tosses his guitar onto the floor, climbs over his amp and leaves the stage entirely.

5. Black Sabbath – Paranoid (The Late Show with David Letterman, 1998)

In 1998, Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and yes, Bill Ward, went on Letterman to perform “Paranoid.” The appearance was to promote their then new live release, Reunion.

6. System of a Down – “Spiders” (Late Night with Conan O’Brien, 2000)

A mostly shirtless SOAD performed this brooding track on Conan in 2000, while promoting their self-titled debut album. The band plays with such ferocity that Daron Malakian knocks his guitar way out of tune, as can be heard in the final arpeggiated chord he strums at the end of the song.

7. Motorhead – “Going to Brazil” (The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, 1992)

Motorhead, then in their two-guitar configuration, turned it out for this appearance on ‘Leno,’ performing this Fifties-style rave-up from the 1916 album (even though Leno introduces it as being from March or Die).

8. Marilyn Manson – “Personal Jesus” (The Late Show with David Letterman, 2004)

Letterman always seemed to have a soft spot for the man who he calls “one of the most colorful musicians in rock and roll.” Here, Manson performs his cover of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” while promoting his greatest hits collection, ‘Lest We Forget.’

9. Deftones – “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)” (Late Night with Conan O’Brien, 1998)

In 1998 a very young Deftones stopped by Conan O’Brien’s show to perform their then new single, “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away),” which became a breakthrough hit for the band.

10. Faith No More – “Midlife Crisis” (The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, 1993)

In January, 1993, Faith No More appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno to perform their hit “Midlife Crisis.” The band would stick around and run through their cover of the Commodores’ “Easy” as well.

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.