Some performers arrive for their first performance on Later… with Jools Holland fully formed and ageless, forcing the passage of time to save its worst effects for someone more susceptible. Laura Marling, for example, may first have appeared as a sprightly 17-year-old, but at no point did she ever blush or quake like a callow youth, and she still holds herself with the same quiet confidence as she always has.
The same, however, cannot be said for all of the people in this list.
The Killers - Somebody Told Me (2004)
Brandon Flowers has delivered many a fascinating look over the years - The Sepia Cowboy, The Feathery Quarterback - each sculpted meticulously by a handsome man with an obsessive eye for detail. Which makes looking back at this performance a little bewildering. The hair’s raggedy, the knot of the tie is pinched and tiny, the shirt and the waistcoat clash, and neither item sits well above the jeans.
If you had to give this look a name, it would be The Last Pageboy Still Dancing After Midnight. As such, “I’ve got potential” could be the most resonant line in the song.
Kings of Leon - Red Morning Light (2003)
You can’t judge people on their youthful haircuts. Everyone has a few photos from their teenage years that never quite made it to Facebook, and never will. But my word, what exquisite beasts the Kings of Leon were at around the time of their first album Youth and Young Manhood.
Feather-cut hair, bootcut jeans, with skinny midriffs unengorged by food or booze, the Followills (particularly Caleb and Jared) look like Rock Star Barbie with Musketeer facial hair, rather than the tiny lumberjacks they would eventually become.
Adele - Daydreamer (2007)
Adele has affected something of a Cinderella transformation since this first performance at the age of 19. Gone are the teetering bun/beehive, the severe fringe, the cardigan, and the protective hedgehog roll posture; curled around her guitar on a stool. At the time, all she had was her cool and her talent, whereas now she has her cool, her talent, a leonine mane, fancy dresses, a more open, straight-backed stance with the confidence of a big band behind her, and the knowledge that the whole world is listening appreciatively.
That sort of attention can really bring a person out of their shell.
Coldplay - Yellow (2000)
Chris Martin of Coldplay does not look like he did in 2000 any more. It’s not just that his hair was a lot longer and more tenticly back then, it’s more that he and the rest of his coldhorts were so plainly still a bunch of scrappy uni kids who got a band together and chanced upon a winning sound. It’s in the way they swing their guitars inwards, away from the front, as if unsure of their potency. It’s in the way they close their eyes or stare at the floor hotly, to shut the cameras out. It’s in the way they appear unsure if they belong there, a fear that can only have been heightened by the careful way Jools says their name with the emphasis on the second syllable, as if trying to ensure no one comes away with the mistaken impression that they are called Coldplate.
Suede - So Young (1993)
Perhaps wary of appearing inexperienced, Suede took their 1993 debut performance to the other extreme. Guitars are held erect here, microphone swinging loose in the breeze, hips in full sway. It's enough to make anyone hot and bothered.
Brett Anderson’s youthful insolence, decadent flopover fringe and habit of singing each syllable as if devouring the flesh of a particularly ripe peach dares - no, double dares - anyone to say their name in a quizzical tone of voice.
Plan B - Mama (2006)
Everything Ben Drew would soon become is contained within this performance in seed form. He may not be suited and booted, he may not be thinking in terms of concept albums (The Defamation of Strickland Banks) and movie scripts (Ill Manors) just yet, but the verses are unflinching, and typically NSFW. There’s a bleak story to be told here, which he does with bruising economy, and the choruses are sung with passion and soul. The cheeky quote from Hall & Oates is a clue too.
If he had disappeared after this, he would still have been Plan B, but perhaps not the A-Grade Plan B he later became.
Arctic Monkeys - I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor (2006)
At some point between the recording of this performance and the arrival of the quiff, Alex Turner decided to become a rock star.
Here, he’s still the 20-year-old lead singer of a band made up of a gang of mates, and bass player Andy Nicholson is still in the group. They’ve all decided that the best way to deal with the bucking rocket of success they appear to have been attached to is just shrug it off and act nonchalant; the way all teenagers do when faced with something too big to comprehend.
The quiff, when it finally arrived, was proof that he'd abandoned this strategy and embraced his inner Elvis.
For more vintage performances, visit the Later... with Jools Holland archive