LAS VEGAS — “Life Is Beautiful,” in its third year, ended as strongly as it began with a bevy of superstars and up and comers. With more than 90,000 in attendance during the three-day party, Las Vegas lived up to its reputation as an entertainment mecca.
“Hi, I’m Dan Reynolds … radioactive,” deadpanned singer Brendan Scholz in between songs during Mercy Music’s powerfully energetic set at festival’s Huntbridge stage. It was the Las Vegas rock band’s first time playing the event and it took full advantage of the opportunity with their brand of infectious, straight ahead rock and roll.
Scholz had an memorable weekend, as he played Day 1 with local rockers Bee Master, celebrated six years of sobriety, and, just hours before his Day 2 set with Mercy Music, welcomed his third child into the world. It’s that tireless work ethic that has earned Mercy Music such a devout fan base.
The closer “Fine” was received with emphatic applause as the band left the stage. Scholz’s songwriting paired with the tight musicianship and showmanship with bassist Jarred Cooper to provide the groundwork of a magnetic performance and a promising future.
Meg Myers’ set on the Huntbridge stage on Day 2 of LIB was aggressive and at times even jarring. Her raw vocal stylings added depth and intensity to songs such as “Desire” and “Curbstomp,” making her one of the more memorable acts of the event.
The backing band consisted of cello, guitar and drums, with Myers even playing bass occasionally. Her jerky stage movements matched the visceral nature of her songs and added to the performance as a whole.
Myers’ ability to pair pop sensibility with grunge and punk tonality and lyricism has allowed her to carve out a very specific niche in today’s musical climate. Her debut album, released Sept. 18, debuted at No. 79 on the Billboard Top 200.
Chance The Rapper
The Chicago-based rapper took the Ambassador stage by storm on the festival’s second night of the festival. Chance spent the first half performing songs from his 2013 breakout mixtape “Acid Rap” backed by Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment. The crowd rapped every word to songs such as “Everybody’s Something,” “Juice,” and “Smoke Again” as Chance ran from side to side of the stage jumping up and down and spraying the voracious crowd with water.
Chance’s talents as a showman were on display more than his lyrical ability; he relied heavily on the audience to finish most of his lines for him as he scurried around the stage acting as his own hype man.
The second half of the set featured mostly songs from his recent collaboration with Donnie Trumpet, “Surf.” The highlight was their driving performance of the single “Sunday Candy.”
The 50-minute set flew by as Chance played one fan favorite after another for the LIB crowd.
“This is your show,” Chance repeated throughout the set. “You’re the ones who have the album in your iTunes, you’re the one who bought a ticket, you’re the reason I’m here at all. This ain’t my show, this is for you.” The sentiment was shared by all in attendance and the crowd responded by getting as energetic and rowdy as Chance himself. His audience was the most electric of the festival.
Badbadnotgood & Ghostface Killah
The fusion jazz hip-hop heads in Badbadnotgood teamed with Ghostface Killah to provide one of the most sonically genuine performances of the weekend. With no backing tracks at all, Badbadnotgood provided incredibly faithful recreations of Wu-Tang beats, with musicianship at the forefront of the evening as Ghostface himself even marveled at the crew’s talent.
“These guys ain’t even scratching the surface of what they can do yet, these guys are only 20, 21 years old or something and they can already play like this?! These guys are for real, I’m telling you right now.”
Highlights of the set included “Iron’s Theme” off of Ghostface’s 1996 Ironman-themed album, an instrumental cover of “I Want You Back,” and “The Rise Of The Ghostface Killah.”
The set had an almost improvised feel as Ghostface ended and called out songs at random. BBNG didn’t miss a beat as they rolled with the punches and jumped in and out of the tunes brought up by the bandleader/rapper.
A bearded Rivers Cuomo took the stage on Night 3 of the festival and led the 1990s rock giants through an hourlong set that focused on the band’s early hits. The crowd seemed to remember, as Weezer was playing, just how many hits they had. Songs now synonymous with ’90s youth like “My Name Is Jonas,” “Beverly Hills,” “Buddy Holly” and more brought many in attendance back to the alt-rock legends’ heyday.
Most of the members of Weezer are now in their mid-40s but it was impossible to tell as they were all smiles moving spryly around the stage. Festivalgoers of all ages could be seen singing along to the Weezer’s 20-year-old songs; a testament to just how extraordinarily well their material has held up.
Kendrick Lamar closed the festival with fervor and energy as he filled an hour and a half long set with material from both of his albums. His minimal backing band (guitar, drums, keys, bass) added to the backing tracks, and cinematic footage from assorted Lamar music videos played behind them.
“Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” and “Backseat Freestyle” were the two biggest crowd pleasers from his breakout album “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City” while “King Kunta” from “To Pimp A Butterfly” brought the crowd to its highest frenzy.
Lamar’s ability to pace himself and deliver nearly every word of his set is evidence of just how seriously he takes his art. He and his band performed with poise and grace. On top of commanding the attention of the crowd, Lamar had no problem letting his band shine as he often let songs roll into instrumental exploration.
Lamar’s set wasn’t all about energy, though. He brought a sense of intimacy to the performance with his emotional “Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst.”
“I’ll be back,” he promised as he left the stage and officially ended the third “Life Is Beautiful.” Lamar’s dedication to his craft is was apparent as he took the headlining slot by storm and made it known that his takeover of the rap game over has been no accident.