With Saturday marking the first official day of Autumn, Las Vegas’ Life is Beautiful is the last hurrah of the summer festival season.
Life Is Beautiful is unique in that it doesn’t take place in a large field or a city park, but smack dab in the middle of Vegas’ eclectic downtown, turning parking lots into disco rooms, hotels into art exhibits, and swaths of streets into stage areas. There’s neon everywhere, a giant fire-spewing metal Praying Mantis by the festival’s entrance, and fitting to the Life Is Beautiful message, words of affirmation adorn fences across the festival grounds and the stage screens.
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While much of the country is beginning to brace for colder weather, festival-goers were still looking to keep cool in the 89-degree desert heat for day one on Friday, albeit with some reprieve thanks to a cloudier, breezier day than expected.
Hometown heroes The Killers headlined day one, while Blxst, Flume, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Bebe Rexha also gave standout sets. Check back here for the next two days as Kendrick Lamar, Odesza, Omar Apollo and Khalid will all be playing.
A Killer Time Back Home
There isn’t an act more fitting to headline the 10-year celebration of Life Is Beautiful than the Killers, the biggest band to ever come out of Las Vegas. The hometown boys walked out to Sinatra’s “Luck Be A Lady,” before leading off their set with “Sam’s Town.”
“We’ve been doubling down in this town since 2001,” Brandon Flowers, wearing a reddish-brown suit, yelled to the crowd before breaking into “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine.” “And if there’s one certain thing in Vegas tonight, it’s that the killers are going to deliver at Life is Beautiful. Can I get an amen?”
Leaning further into the sentimentality of playing back home, Flowers dedicated “Dustland” to his hometown of Henderson, just 20 minutes southeast of Downtown Vegas. “I carry it with me wherever I go, and I don’t always reflect it the way I should but when I do everything is better,” Flowers said of the lights of Henderson, encouraging fans to hold up lights from their phones.
After “Dustland,” they played a brief, stripped-back cover of U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name,” a tribute to the Irish band as they get ready to christen the MSG’s Sphere in Vegas later this month.
In their hour-and-twenty-minute headlining set, the Killers plowed through fan favorites including “Somebody Told Me,” “When You Were Young” and initially finished with “All These Things That I’ve Done.” They came back for an encore with “The Man,” “Human” and once again celebrated their home with a cover of “Viva Las Vegas,” while videos of slot machines played in the background. They of course end their set with “Mr. Brightside,” a generational anthem so big it will keep the Killers playing shows as long as there are any millennials left to sing it back. – E.M.
Pop? Country? EDM? Bebe Rexha Does It All
When it comes to hits that’ll get any crowd bumpin’, Bebe Rexha is your girl.
The pop songstress gave a headline-worthy set Friday night at the JBL set, even welcoming a guest appearance from Tyler Hubbard for a rendition of their country collaboration “Meant to Be,” which has garnered 1.3 billion streams since it dropped in 2017.
“We’ve become so close and I’m so thankful that you’re here tonight,” Rexha told the country star, before the duo sang the Florida Georgia Line collab. (Hubbard mentioned he made it to Life Is Beautiful just in time to join Rexha after he headlined his own show elsewhere in the city.)
Before her set, Rexha told Rolling Stone she modified her festival sets to feature the tracks everyone knows, and she sure delivered as she performed her massive hits such as “I’m Good,” “Me, Myself, and I,” “I’m a Mess,” and “In the Name of Love,” her collaboration with Martin Garrix.
“For festivals, I definitely change my set. When you’re doing a tour, people are buying tickets to see you,” she told Rolling Stone. “But at a festival, there are people coming to see you but also ones who don’t know much about you. I put more of the hits and songs people know [on the setlist].”
Rexha even brought up two fans for a dance battle as she sang “Hey Mama.” “Can you twerk? Can you cartwheel?” Rexhas asked before one of the fans, who flew to Las Vegas from Montana, thanked Rexha for being the queen “of all the LGBTQ+” as she bowed down to the singer onstage.
Rexha even threw it back to 2016 with a rendition of her Cash Cash collab, “Take Me Home” after reminding the crowd: “You know I’m single, right?” Rexha dazzled onstage and proved why she’s one of pop’s top stars. – T.M.
‘Extra Magic in the Air’ With the Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Over 20 years into their tenure, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs still know how to make a lot of noise. The post-punk vets gave easily the heaviest set of the night and likely of the entire weekend.
Karen O and the band burned through an electric set, starting with “Spitting Off The Edge of the World” followed by “Cheated Hearts,” “Rich and Burning.” The set represented the first time Yeah Yeah Yeahs played in Vegas in “10 fuckin’ years,” as O, wearing a black jumpsuit with red fringes, recalled.
“It’s a fall equinox tonight, some extra magic in the air,” O said before breaking into “Soft Shock,” off the band’s 2009 album It’s Blitz.
“This is the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s love song, I’d like to dedicate this song to all you lovers in the crowd tonight,” O said after the crowd erupted into cheers at the start of the staccato picking on “Maps.”
O’s ability to weave between a breathy whisper to a near cartoonishly high screech remains unmatched, as shown as the band closed out with “Date With The Night.” She finished not so much with a mic drop but rather by swinging the mic around like a lasso and tossing it 10 feet in the air. – E..M.
Blxst Brings the Love
The alternative programming to the Killers’ headlining performance at the Downtown Stage was an impeccable wind-down set with Blxst at the Fremont Stage.
Blxst opened his performance with “Wrong or Right” from No Love Lost for some soothing R&B vibes. “I see love in the building,” Blxst told the crowd, most of whom were dancing along to the performer’s chiller tracks.
“I just wrapped a tour in San Diego but I feel like if I’m in Vegas, we might as well bring it here too,” Blxst told the crowd, before welcoming Bino Rideaux for a handful of tracks from the duo’s three Sixtape records, including “Movie,” “Bacc Home,” and “Doin Yo Stuff.” At one point during his time on stage, Blxst performed “Every Good Girl” in front of a mural of women rappers, before dedicating “About You” to a woman in the crowd.
Blxst’s backup vocalist Cheyenne Wright shined onstage as she provided a heavenly pairing for Blxst’s vocals, especially as the two dueted to “Overrated.” (Blxst gave Wright her flowers, leading the crowd in applause.) – T.M.
Sexy. Starfucker. Slayyyter
What better place for Slayyyter to celebrate the release of her stellar new album, Starfucker, than at Life Is Beautiful?
The pop provocateur gave fans a taste of what’s to come on her Club Valentine tour with an excellent set, mostly comprising songs from her newest LP. Wearing a skintight latex dress (that nearly led to a nip slip), Slayyyter performed some of the album’s standouts like club-ready banger “My Body,” electropop earworm “Rhinestone Heart,” and “Dramatic.” She even hit some operatic notes to start “Miss Belladonna.
Even if the LP had been out for less than 24 hours, sis had the crowd (mostly comprising gays and theys) jumpin’ and singing along to the catchy choruses.
And it wouldn’t be a Slayyyter show with a cathartic performance of “Daddy AF” to close her set on the Rolling Stone stage. It’s a fitting stage for the star, who recently spoke to the magazine about the inspiration behind her debut album, to perform tracks from Starfucker for the first time. -T.M.
Raye Shines Bright with the Blues
Now that’s how you start the evening.
Raye — in a short red dress and white Air Force Ones — transformed the JBL Stage into the 21st Century Blues bar as she performed tracks from her debut LP surrounded by her dancers in white tuxedos. “I’m so jetlagged but I’m so happy to be here,” Raye told the crowd. “I feel like I’m in a simulation.” Well, the simulation must serve as the perfect place for vocals because the British star hit the high notes in tracks like “The Thrill Is Gone” and “Oscar-Winning Tears to perfection.
A poignant moment in her set arrived during “Ice Cream Man,” as she detailed her experience with sexual assault and leaving her toxic old label. “This next song is a bloody song to sing,” Raye told the crowd, before adding, “I wasn’t in control of the art… There’s nothing worse than being an artist and your heart is not in what you’re creating.” She closed her eyes during the entirety of the song.
For the end of the set, she tapped into some dancier tracks, including “Black Mascara” and throwback “Secrets,” before concluding her performance with “Escapism,” the track that skyrocketed her career after going independent. – T.M.
What Happens When the Crowd Crowd-Surfs? Ask Goth Babe
Usually, it’s the artist who tries crowd-surfing during their concerts, but for indie rock group Goth Babe, they brought two fans up to have that honor instead. Cast out above the crowd in an inflatable boat and a giant watermelon slice, the fans were passed in circles as the band performed a brief cover of Santo and Johnny’s “Sleepwalk” before breaking into their tune “Alone in the Mountains.”
That was just the most notable of several crowd-engaging antics from the group’s hour-long set at the Rolling Stone stage. They took a page out of Steve Aoki’s book and hurled cupcakes at the audience as an award just after inciting a dance-off between the two sides of the crowd.
The inflatables were flung back into the crowd one last time as the band closed their set with the song “Weekend Friend” along with a cardboard cutout of Will Ferrell’s famous Christmas character Buddy The Elf, because why not? – E.M.
Floatin’ with Flume
Flume sent the JBL Stage crowd to Mount Olympus during his Greek arch-decorated set, which featured sounds and singles from across his diverse discography.
Frequent collaborator — and Flume’s go-to vocalist — Kučka joined the DJ onstage for renditions of fan favorites such as “Some & Retribution,” “Hyperreal,” and the slower “Voices,” which originally featured the late hyper pop extraordinaire, Sophie.
Elsewhere in the set, and as an inflatable cow crowdsurfed, Vera Blue shined as she took the place of Kai for Flume’s biggest hit “Never Be Like You,” before singing a rendition of “Rushing Back.” Flume closed off his set by playing his remix of Lorde’s “Tennis Court.” (If only Ella was here!) – T.M.
Cirque Du Soleil Takes Flight
One of Life Is Beautiful’s uniquely Vegas quirks is its incorporation of famous Vegas performances into the festival programming. And there’s perhaps no show off the strip better known than Cirque du Soleil.
With the show celebrating 30 years of performances in the city, Cirque played a lightning-quick 15-minute set on the main stage before Dayglow’s concert, giving a brief sampling of the dancing, balancing acts, and aerial acrobatics – one performer literally attached to a harness by her scalp – that’s made Cirque du Soleil so ubiquitous.
Dancers came out in intricate facial makeup evocative of feudal Japan as well as more classic circus clown looks, while gymnasts made elaborate pyramids hoisting one another in the air while one performer balanced himself on a small barrel while standing on six skateboards. The circus team performed to a range of dramatic operatic songs as well as Imagine Dragons’ “On Top of The World.”
The Vegas staples are a mainstay each year, and the Blue Man Group and Jabbawockeez are slated for sets this weekend as well. – E.M.
Note: Rolling Stone purchased a majority stake in Life is Beautiful in 2022.
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