Conan’s Guitar Solo


Conan. Dude, I love that guy. Watching his last show was hard to do. You see somebody so good at what they do and you watch it get thrown away, it’s just sad. Like so many things in this world, you see something great unrecognized and wasted.

Sure, he’s not Beethoven or anything, he’s just a funny dude who is worth a ton of money, but to see a man handed his dream and then crushed, no matter the circumstances, is and should be painful to watch.

However, that last few minutes with the pseudo-all star band playing “Free Bird”? It was odd, no doubt, and felt like it wasted some precious time, but when Conan, who is NOT a lead guitar player started taking solos, I started crying. The ZZ Top dude looks at this 45-year old gangly redhead who just got publicly humiliated and gives him the nod, the sound guy turns it up, and this guy, holding back tears, just goes for it!

No one needs to tell me that playing a guitar solo is a holy moment. Few things in life are more spiritual, more honest or more fun. My perspective on this may not be universal, but just watching this guy miss notes left and right, bad tone, no phrasing, going out in his own bizarre blaze of glory? How can you not love that?

I ask you, America! How can you not love that!?

I loved it, anyway. Obviously.

And I feel about Conan like I felt about so many bands I loved, who were truly great, and were misunderstood and cast aside for something that would make a company more money. I feel this peculiar sense of longing.

I’ve been cynical, and he’s right, it’s a waste of time. I don’t want to be cynical. I want to believe that there will come a day when the people who really put themselves out there, exploring their craft and their heart to the best that they can, will be embraced and celebrated. I want to believe there will come a day when we will all “get” the misunderstood genius and all enjoy the catchy pop hook with the same level of holy intentionality.

I saw in the last few nights of that show what I feel when I hear Achtung Baby or A Liturgy, A Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band. I saw what I felt the last few shows we played as The Normals (not necessarily because we were so great but because of how fully “present” we were in those moments). I saw a glimpse of the divine that is so precious and so true that it reinforces my belief in a Holy God.

Rich meant to show me that. Conan didn’t. Who knows what Bono meant. But I saw it nonetheless, and my heart responds:

“I have seen Your creation amid the fallout, and yes, it IS good. Thank you. And come soon.”


  1. Jonathan Rogers


    Wow, Andrew. Thanks for this. Please post more often. I just watched Conan’s farewell speech (couldn’t find the guitar solo online); it truly was remarkable and wise. If anybody has a link to the guitar solo, I’d love to see it.

  2. Ray P.

    The last week of Conan was in fuego. He was in he zone and performances like that- although it was his final moments are what makes things worth watching and in this case probably great enough to say that Conan’s finest hour is before him.

  3. JC

    Jonathan, you can watch the entire last episode on NBC’s website. You could just skip to the end to watch the final segment if you wish.

  4. Randall Goodgame


    Here, here! Andy O – I was thinking the same thing! Dude did not CARE! He was just going for it with his pick of legends on the stage while Will Ferrell and his wife (who had her baby hours later) were mopping tonsils just to his left. It was pure chaos with Conan as the chaostrator getting lost in string bending bliss.

    I was totally weirded out and loving it at the same time.

  5. Chris R

    Randy “chaostrator”… I feel like you are Will Ferrell in the James Lipton sketch where he says there is no words to describe something so he makes something up. Well Randy, your “chaostrator” was scrumtrulescent

  6. John Michalak

    Totally agree, Andrew. While he’s reflects a different generation, Conan is much closer to Carson’s performance genius that Leno or Letterman will ever be. While I too cringed listening to the solo, it was almost like parents watching their kid in a school play. All these virtuoso musicians around him didn’t care how well he played–he was family, and one of their own. And Stephen was right. The ultimate tribute had to be more cowbell from Mr. Ferrell.

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