Combining amazing music, world-class food, breathtaking art and iconic public speakers, the Life Is Beautiful festival is a welcome departure from the manufactured spectacle of Sin City’s over-the-top casinos and nightclubs. Transforming downtown Las Vegas into a unique, multi-stage jubilee that stretches across three days, LIB gives “Old Vegas” its own sense of culture that can be shared nationwide. With thousands descending upon the city to witness over 70 performers, it’s difficult to sift through them all to serve up a top 10 — but that’s what we’re here for. After an electric 72 hours, Billboard is back with the goods on those that wowed the crowd like no other.
10. Kimbra (Saturday, 8:15PM – Western Stage)
From the moment Kimbra shed her elaborate wool shawl to reveal a shimmering foil dress during the opening moments of “Teen Heat” from the recently released The Golden Echo, fans that surrounded the Western Stage knew they were in for a treat. For those that were curious what the female voice behind Gotye’s 2011 smash “Somebody I Used To Know” was all about, Kimbra’s wildly eclectic set — powered by the glittery pop of “90s Music” and the breezy “Nobody But You” — certainly raised a few eyebrows. A special talent with a pop sensibilities sandwiched into her powerful jazz infused vocals, it’s difficult to peg Kimbra into a singular genre. She’s a star, even if the rest of the universe hasn’t caught up to her yet.
9. Arctic Monkeys (Sunday, 7:45PM – Downtown Stage)
When too-cool-for-school frontman Alex Turner emerged on stage with his hair slicked back and dressed like a teddy boy, the crowd erupted for the quartet that has reached cult status in the States. With arguably one of the largest crowds of the festival watching them stroll through the eight years worth of albums — highlighted by fire starter “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor” — the Brits proved why they’ve become a cultural phenomenon on both sides of the pond.
8. DJ Mustard (Saturday, 5:55PM – Huntridge Stage)
DJ Mustard’s session behind the tables turned the festival into an outdoor nightclub and served as one of LIB’s more fun-filled performances. Intersecting his own hits with today’s chart-toppers from pop stars, Mustard had everyone scrambling to the Huntridge Stage to join the swelling party. With a special appearance from frequent collaborator YG, Mustard’s set was a much-needed break where the partygoers became the show instead of simply watching it.
7. Kanye West (Friday, 10:35PM – Downtown Stage)
It wasn’t Mr. West’s greatest performance, nor was it filled with one of those trademark rants that punctuate his recent performances, but Kanye’s one-man show was peppered with undeniable hits. The polarizing rapper/producer’s set was frontloaded with the abstract offerings from Yeezus that didn’t quite resonate with everyone. But once the masked rapper rolled into hits such as “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” “Good Life” and “Gold Digger” (which were built for festivals), it was pure audible bliss.
6. Phantogram (Friday, 5:15PM – Downtown Stage)
It’s hard to believe that Phantogram hasn’t been performing together for all that long. But with a band backing Sarah Barthel’s enchanting vocals and fueling Josh Carter’s self-proclaimed “street beat, psych pop” that is heavy on sounds from early 2000s underground hip-hop, their set translated remarkably well in front of a festival crowd. The pulsation of “Fall in Love” sent fans into impromptu dances while the dreamy “When I’m Small” closed the show and left fans intoxicated by what they saw and heard.
5. Fitz & The Tantrums (Saturday, 5:05PM – Downtown Stage)
Saturday was arguably Life Is Beautiful’s finest sequence of performances. With the blistering sun still beaming down on the Las Vegas pavement, the Los Angeles band could have phoned it in for their fans and left the heavy hitters with the task of winning over everyone else. But Fitz, Noelle and the band managed to do was set the tone for the rest of the night with a high-energy blend of neo-jazz and soul that made new fans out of anyone who had been sleeping on them. From the crazy — and nearly sensual — chemistry between Fitz and Noelle during their excellent “Sweet Dreams” cover to the crowd making heart signs with their hands during “Out Of My League,” Fitz & The Tantrums nearly stole the show.
4. Lionel Richie (Saturday, 8:25PM – Downtown Stage)
Lionel Richie looked out of place as the senior citizen of a lineup that catered toward the millennials. But over the course of his 90-minue set, the 65-year-old built a sturdy bridge that brought together generations of music fans. Digging into his bag of hits, Richie and his high-octane band rolled through a sequence of ‘70s and ‘80s songs that even the 20-somethings in the crowd had to tip their cap to. From the Commodore-era “Brick House” to the ironic “Hello,” there was nothing but gold in Richie’s set.
3. Foo Fighters (Sunday, 9:45PM – Downtown Stage)
Tasked with closing out the festival, the Foo Fighters certainly didn’t disappoint with a 120-minute marathon that plowed through their immense catalog. Dave Grohl’s amusing potty mouth provided just enough time between rousing performances of “My Hero,” “The Pretender” and “Best of Me” so the audience could catch their breath. And if you had your fill of the Foo Fighter catalog, their enchanting covers of The Rolling Stones, Tom Petty and Queen maintained the momentum well into the night.
2. The Roots (Saturday, 6:40PM – Downtown Stage)
With all the focus on the headliners, The Roots flew under the radar heading into Life Is Beautiful. But when the collective took to the stage, they delivered a memorable performance that cemented their status as one of the greatest live shows in any genre. Culling together a set list that blended multiple genres, The Roots rolled their hour long set with a breakneck pace. Aside from the entertaining interweaving OG Maco’s “U Guessed It” with 1999’s hit single “You Got Me” and Black Thought terrorizing the mic with “Boom,” it would be Captain Kirk Douglas’ stirring guitar solo that slayed the audience and left everyone talking well into the night.
1. Outkast (Saturday, 10:45PM – Downtown Stage)
Maybe it was nostalgia. Or, perhaps it was the fact that this was their second-to-last show after reuniting for a 40+ performance festival run for the first time since 2002. With the awkwardness of their Coachella set in the rear view window, Andre 3000 and Big Boi put on a show to remember as they closed out an incredible string of Saturday performances. The moment the duo emerged from a giant cube and “B.O.B.” rang out into the desert air, it was evident that festivalgoers were in for a treat. From the smash hits (“Ms. Jackson”) to the cult classics (“Crumblin Erb”), the energy was high throughout. More importantly, the duo’s chemistry was undeniable and they appeared to have a ton of fun with the crowd. It was made all the more special considering that this could be the last time we see them perform as a duo again.