As I watched the closing act, perched atop a riser overlooking the entire crowd at The Downtown Stage, the reality set in, “Life Is Beautiful is a legitimate festival.” I don’t know the numbers, but for a first go-round, with thousands of fans congregating in a makeshift concert space, I can’t see how anyone could view this event as anything but a success.
Kings Of Leon proved to be every bit the headliner that an event like this deserves. Playing a varied 90-minute set filled with hits, dirty Southern rock and awesome slow jams, this was an act that helps define a festival.
Whatever problems lead singer Caleb Followill has had in the past now seem gone. His voice was robust and the right kind of scratchiness, peaking nicely on early hit “The Bucket” and smash “Notion”. And “Back Down South” takes on an entirely new life in a live setting than it had on album Come Around Sundown.
What was especially nice to hear was how new songs like “Supersoaker” sound live. However, the real eye-opener off of new album Mechanical Bull is the epic “Beautiful War” with its swooping soundscape and heartstring-pulling lyrics, “I say ‘Love, love--don’t mean nothing / Unless there’s something worth fighting for / It’s a beautiful war.”
The crowd was rewarded for its patience with main set closer “Use Somebody” and, of course, encore capper “Sex Is On Fire,” both off of mega album Only by the Night (2008). While the band might never reach those heights again, they have definitely cemented themselves as a modern rock force that will likely be around for years to come.
Speaking of things that will likely be around for years to come, welcome to the neighborhood, Life Is Beautiful. You’ve thrown one hell of a block party to announce your arrival.