When Damon Albarn’s cartoon supergroup Gorillaz hit Las Vegas Sunday to headline the final night of the Life Is Beautiful festival, Albarn brought along a Sin City entourage large and impressive enough to rival that of Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve, or even Thirteen. Enlisting friends also playing the fest, along with a couple surprise collaborators from Gorillaz’ excellent, recent fifth album, Humanz, Albarn and company put on an all-star show that practically felt like a festival in and of itself.
De La Soul, who’d played their own main stage set earlier in the day, were the most recognizable and ecstatically received guest stars, showing up not only for the massive 2005 single “Feel Good Inc.” but also the whimsical Plastic Beach track “Superfast Jellyfish.” De La Soul’s Maseo seemed particularly delighted to be there, wrapping Albarn in a big bear hug at the end of the evening.
Racing over from his Huntridge Stage set, which ended just minutes before Gorillaz’ show, was rising hip-hop sensation Vince Staples, whose ferocious performance of the Humanz single “Ascension” was a high-energy highlight. Pusha T, who’d played the Ambassador Stage a couple hours earlier, also emerged for “Let Me Out” (albeit sans Mavis Staples — no relation to Vince — who appears on the original Humanz recording).
Queer rapper Zebra Katz, resplendently wearing a hooded silver spacesuit and Blue Steel facial expression, and house DJ Jamie Principle delivered the over-the-top and undeniably Vegas-appropriate disco jam “Sex Murder Party.” Electrosoul dynamo Peven Everett kept the dance party going with Humanz’ “Strobelite,” then he easily handled the potentially daunting task of standing in for late legend Bobby Womack on 2010’s “Stylo.” (A painting of Womack’s face appeared above the stage, eliciting cheers from the crowd.)
But the most exciting cameo came from black-clad badass Jehnny Beth, the impossibly cool and fearsomely fierce French frontwoman of U.K. post-punk band Savages. Beth magnificently powered through “We Got the Power” while seemingly simultaneously harnessing the rock-goddess power of Siouxsie Sioux, PJ Harvey, and Patti Smith — thus bringing Gorillaz’ set, and Life Is Beautiful, to a climactic, crowd-surfing close.
Other Life Is Beautiful performers on Sunday included Haim, the xx, and MGMT; Friday’s highlights included Lorde and 2 Chainz, while Saturday brought rock ’n’ roll revues from Muse and Cage the Elephant. For more reports, news, videos, and photos from the festival, click here.