Sacha Lecca for Rolling Stone
Sunday brought a close to the tenth Life is Beautiful music festival in Las Vegas, and with it the end of the summer festival season. Life Is Beautiful, which has taken place in the city every year for the past decade (save for a pandemic-related 2020 cancellation), brought tens of thousands of concertgoers downtown, many in the psychedelic and post-Y2K fashion that’s been so common at festivals for the past several years, though this time with a fair amount of Barbie influence, too.
The festival envelops some of Vegas’s most artsy streets — a few minutes’ walk from the casinos and iconic Vegas landmarks — putting several apartment complexes literally in the middle of the festival grounds. It’s easy for those only paying attention to the stages to miss little hidden secrets like omakase dining, markets on the sides of streets, silent disco rooms and bingo competitions. A decade into its tenure, there’s still not many festivals in the country quite like Life Is Beautiful.
After fans spent the past two days baking in the desert sun things started out mellow on Sunday — that is, until Odesza, Kim Petras, Khalid and Nelly injected some energy into what turned into an exciting day three to close out the fest. And Check out our coverage of the first two days.
Odesza and the Pyrotechnics
The third and final night of Life Is Beautiful ended with a magical closing set from EDM duo Odesza, who transformed the main stage into a massive rave, aided by flames, drummers, pyrotechnics, gorgeous, colorful visuals, and a slew of special guest singers.
The duo — Catacombkid and Clayton Knight — opened with a performance of “Beyond the Sun,” helped by their drumline, which had the crowd rocking to spectacular beats. Odesza was more than just twisting knobs and amping the crowd, too, as the two played drums themselves several times throughout the set.
Several guests made appearances, including Sudan Archives, who commanded the stage for a rendition of Odesza’s remix of “Selfish Soul.” Vocalists like Izzy Bizu and Naomi Wild joined the duo as well, performing their songs “Forgive Me” and “Higher Ground” respectively.
Odesza concluded with a massive firework spectacle as they played tracks “A Moment Apart” and “The Last Goodbye.” It was a fitting ending to a festival where the values of PLUR — Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect — were alive all weekend. – T.M.
There’s No Holding Back Rina Sawayama
Rina Sawayama recently blessed the world with a “reloaded” extension of her highly successful Hold the Girl tour, and made a stop at Life Is Beautiful Saturday for likely the best pop performance of the entire weekend.
While performing tracks from 2022’s Hold the Girl, and her two self-titled projects, Sawayama had not one, not two, not three, but four outfit changes throughout her forty-minute set. (She’s the only performer we saw to have full ‘fit changes all weekend.) “I try to give it my all,” she said at one point during her performance. “I always got my puss out.”
Sawayama engaged in interpretive choreography with her two backup dancers during “Hold the Girl,” and “Hurricanes,” before taking it up a notch with a rockier rendition of “Dynasty.”
“A few years ago my friends and I sat down in a room and said… let’s write a song about masturbation,” she said while introducing “Lucid Dreams.” “So this song is about loving yourself.”
Sawayama had several of her quick changes on stage, going from jeans and a buttondown to a skintight red bodysuit in the snap of fingers, adding a Britney Spears-esque mic to perform fan favorite “Comme Des Garçons.” She closed with “This Hell,” dedicated to the “gays.” (“I’ve seen a couple of you on Grindr tonight,” she joked.) For good measure, Sawayama added a cowboy hot and matching boots for a line dance-filled performance and a call-and-response from the crowd. – T.M.
Khalid Stuns on the JBL Stage
Khalid swung big early, opening with his nine-times platinum hit “Young, Dumb and Broke,” immediately demanding the crowd’s attention.
Wearing a shimmering, ocean-blue button-down shirt and matching pants, Khalid never stopped smiling through his whole set as he closed out the JBL stage, his first time playing Life Is Beautiful. With his backing band and a few dancers, the El Paso-raised singer ran through several tracks from his six-year-old debut album American Teen. “I can’t believe those songs came out in 2017 and you guys are still stinging the songs along with me. That’s a blessing,” he said.
Starting with higher energy, he mellowed the crowd by the middle of his set with slower soulful R&B tracks like “Coaster” and “Shot Down.” “I’m gonna play the song that got me here in the first place,” Khalid told the crowd before performing “Saved.”
He gave some love to his dancers before performing “Eleven,” telling the crowd that “I love watching them move, I want you guys to hype them up because they’re so good at their job and come out every day.” (The dancers were impressive, head banging and contorting, crashing onto the stage floor.) He flexed his hits for the back end of his set, with “Location,” his Calvin Harris feature on “Rollin,” and “Talk,” and finished with “Better.” – E.M.
Kim Petras: Sex Symbol Extraordinaire
“Sorry I keep popping pussy tonight,” Kim Petras told the crowd as wind machines blew her dress up. The Marilyn Monroe moment felt fitting as the singer powered through some of her sexy tracks, especially a sexy medley of Slut Pop songs including “Throat Goat,” “Treat Me Like a Slut,” and “The Wanna Fuck.” (Petras slayed the choreo the entire time.)
She sprinkled in a few Feed the Beast tracks, but seemed to be saving those tracks for her world tour for the album, which starts Wednesday. Absent from her set was were any songs from her recent surprise release, Problematique. (Fans will probably get more of those during her tour. The Vegas performance seemed like the perfect prelude to it.)
“Where my OG Bunheads at?” she asked the crowd as she performed some of her first releases: “All the Time,” “Hillside Boys,” and “Can’t Do Better.” Petras closed her set with “Heart to Break,” thanking the crowd for their fiery energy. “This song is about anal!” she declared before “Hit It From the Back.” – T.M.
Nelly Gives a Half-Show of Iconic Hits
There’s no doubt: Nelly has hit after hit after hit. But the throwback musician gave a confusing performance of his throwbacks alongside City Spud, who rapped onstage with (read: for) him the entire time.
Nelly opened his set with “Party People,” performing songs like “Ride Wit Me” and “Country Grammar” before dedicating a big chunk of his set to his collabs with Florida Georgia Line, “Cruise” and “Lil Bit.”
“I wanna thank each one of you who’ve been riding with Nelly since day one. No matter why you started supporting Nelly or rocking with Nelly,” he told the crowd. “I want to thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart.”
Nelly stacked all the big hitters — “Hot in Here,” “Get Tipsy,” and “Dilemma” — into a medley that felt rushed, but which the crowd devoured nonetheless. Nelly would often let the crowd sing along to the tracks as he crossed his arms and watched.
It’s as if Nelly transferred his set for a nearby nightclub and blew it up for the Downtown Stage. – T.M.
John Summit On Top
Towering over the crowd from his perch above the main downtown stage, DJ John Summit gave a high-energy show just after sunset, delivering an electronic set as if to help prepare the crowd for Odesza’s headlining show three hours later.
He delivered all the expectations of a main stage electronic act, with plenty of pyro, bass drops and hypnotic, trance-y visuals that transported Summit from the mountains to the stars and rainforests and kept the crowd in a steady groove for his whole hour.
Breezing through originals like “Human” and remixes songs like the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” Summit finished with the dance hit “Where You Are,” with a shot of a smoke pluming volcanic eruption and lightning behind him. – E.M.
Bin-go For It
Bingo is a game typically associated with retirement homes — and not exactly an most obvious attraction at a music festival catering mainly to Gen Z and Millennials. But Life Is Beautiful doesn’t ask why, but why not? “We’re not agin’ we are ragin’” a moppy-haired bingo caller — wearing a bedazzled yacht captain hat and shimmering white suit — says while dancing on stage to kool and the gang’s “Get Down On It.” The game was part of MeowWolf’s immersive art exhibit in the old Western hotel building. “The numbers are hopping, we’re not stopping,” said the caller. “This game isn’t called bing-stop, it’s bingo. We’ve got a an old school funk mix, but we’re doing it modern day for modern people.”
Soon after, one lucky festivalgoer got a bingo. Her award: a gaudy gold fringed jacket. – E.M.
Note: Rolling Stone purchased a majority stake in Life is Beautiful in 2022.