As David Letterman hangs up his double-breasted suit for good, and his bald apprentice Paul Shaffer goes into early retirement, we thought it might be fun to countdown all of the best Aussie acts who’ve made a splash on our TV screens across the King of Late Night’s 33-year reign.
INXS & Ray Charles – Please (You Got That) (October 1993)
This is one for the history books. In 1993 while promoting their ninth album Full Moon, Dirty Hearts INXS took to the Letterman stage to perform Please (You Got That…) with the legendary Ray Charles. Michael Hutchence and Charles are at their vocal-best, pushing each other to giddy heights, sitting side-by-side. Meanwhile guitarist Tim Farris delivers some thoroughly impressive footwork.
Silverchair – Abuse Me (1997)
In 1997, Silverchair had well and truly cracked the US. Their first album Frogstomp was a top ten record and they landed a spot on Letterman to promote their second, Freak Show. The Newcastle trio took to the stage to deliver a rock-solid performance of the album’s second single Abuse Me.
The Vines – Get Free (2002)
While you wouldn’t call this a “good” performance, it nonetheless remains one of the most talked about in the history of late night TV. Craig Nicholls, after clearly having taken all the drugs, spirals into an incomprehensible fit of screaming and stage-trashing, simultaneously perplexing Letterman, probably his own band, and millions of viewers around the world.
An Horse – Camp Out (2009)
The acclaimed Aussie duo – which America thought of as a reverse-version of the White Stripes, made their network TV debut on Letterman in 2009 with a much lauded and, uh, family-friendly performance of their normally expletive laden track Camp Out. The gig exposed this relatively unknown Aussie band to a vastly bigger international audience.
Atlas Genius – If So (2013)
A small indie-rock band from Adelaide may seem like unlikely candidates to take to the mighty Letterman stage but it happened. It was understandably a huge performance for the young band who were promoting their 2013 debut When It Was Now, but they delivered the goods. Letterman also seems genuinely interested in the band’s history, asking which are brothers. “All the way from Adelaide,” he pronounced.
Midnight Oil – Outbreak Of Love, 1993
America is introduced to Peter Garrett… and those dance moves as Letterman’s “favourite Australian band” perform on the show for the first time.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – I Had A Dream, Joe (1993)
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds may seem like a music veterans now, but back in 1993 Cave was only just making his debut on network television. Cave performed a raucous, howling rendition of I Had A Dream, Joe from his album Henry’s Dream. He stalked the stage with his typical brooding presence, delivering something that must have been startlingly unconventional for Letterman. At this point Cave was still 20 years away from cracking the top 30 of the US charts which he did in 2013 with Push The Sky Away.
Baby Animals – Painless (1992)
While on tour in the US with Van Halen, David Letterman, sporting hair on his head, hosted Baby Animals on his iconic stage. Led by a sultry Suze DeMarchi the band delivered a confident performance of Painless from their debut self-titled album. As they rolled to commercial, Letterman whispered something in DeMarchi’s ear and to this day we’re still not exactly sure what he said.
The Living End – Roll On (2000)
In 2000, The Living End took to the Letterman stage for a ferocious performance of Roll On from their second LP of the same name. The album didn’t chart in the US, but they did get a “nice job” from Letterman himself and got to play the double bass live on US TV. Goals.
Sia – Soon We’ll Be Found (2008)
Remember when Sia had a face? Can’t deny that voice though.
The Cat Empire – Sly (2007)
In 2007 The Cat Empire were just small fish in a big pond when they appeared on Letterman in the US. There to promote their second record Two Shoes, the Empire’s performance included one hell of a jazzed-up instrumental break and some distinctively Australian vocals. “That’s a party for God’s sake,” said Letterman after the performance.
Crowded House – Sister Madly (1990)
Just shut up about about whether Crowded House are an Australian or New Zealand band, and just enjoy this, OK?