In the final moments of Friday’s The Tonight Show, the now former host, Conan O’Brien, grabbed an ax (that’s slang for guitar) and joined The Max Weinberg 7 to perform “Freebird,” which also included one of the dudes from ZZ Top (the long-bearded guy), Ben Harper, Beck, and Will Ferrell on lead vocals. The spectacle turned an otherwise melancholy moment into something amusing (the segment, along with the rest of O’Brien’s final episode at the helm, can currently be viewed, with limited commercial interruption, at Hulu). The supergroup’s competencies notwithstanding, there were two remarkable things about the performance. First, O’Brien’s ability to shred (that’s slang for play ax); and second, his alternating expressions of joy, sadness, and, more interestingly, relief.
He’s been through a lot (frankly, we all have). O’Brien was having fun jamming, for sure, but by the end it was like watching someone who, after coming to terms with the fact that there’s nothing more the doctors can do for him, happily dies in his sleep while dreaming and, once dead, ascends to heaven. Or something to that effect. Continue reading