It may be slightly unfair to judge the B96 Pepsi-sponsored SummerBash as bad on the content put forth by the station alone, but the impression felt by all wasn't extreme satisfaction. The artists did bring as much of an A-game as they were allowed with super short sets of limited live music and an obvious lack of organization on the part of the venue. Though a 5 p.m. start time allowed the fans to avoid the sweltering weather somewhat, some of the artists did bring the heat with them on Sunday, June 24 to the Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL.
The openers, including MIMS, started out pretty strong but without much of an audience as people were still fighting to make their way to their seats on the arena floor. By the fourth act, Paula DeAnda, the majority of people were ready to watch the 17-year-old singer belt out five quick songs. The star covered her hits "Doing Too Much," "Walk Away (Remember Me)" and "When It Was Me"-a song written by Ne-Yo, whose mere mention melted the women in the crowd even more than the sun did.
Next up was Hilary Duff, switching from a headliner spot to halfway down the playbill. The Dignity star played old and new tunes to the hearts of some in the audience but the real excitement came when the much anticipated act, Ne-Yo, came to the stage next. The performer played a longer set and was very well received. His time was filled with familiar songs, two costume changes by the dancers and a guest artist. Paula Campbell was introduced as the first lady of Compound Entertainment, and she made a lasting impression with a snippet from her song "Ain't Nobody Stupid".
When the moon came out over Toyota Park, so did Ciara. The stage was set with dancers all in white and like the star she is, Ciara shined through in similar apparel with her first hit, "Goodies". A true performer, she cured a quick microphone glitch by grabbing a hand-held, and carried on with her set from the beginning. Though the sound was a bit off in the beginning and Ciara's well-known dance moves demanded a bit more from her than her voice could give live, she still managed to put in the energetic performance her reputation promises. When it came to movement, Ciara was making the most of her time on stage, sometimes with others' beats played by the DJ at the stars command. Before she left us all with a motivational parting speech, Ciara got super sexy with "Promise" and super street with her crunk moves during "That's Right".
Though the acts were picking up points for pert performances on such a lengthy star-studded bill, the filler between acts was like listening to a broken record. Songs blew through he speakers and over the video projection like they were on a permanent rotation when you'd think that so many like sets could be broken up with more than UNK's "Walk It Out," Dude 'N Nem's "Watch My Feet," and Shop Boyz' "Party Like A Rockstar".
At 9 p.m. we again, got live. T-Pain "Sprung" onto the stage with his well-liked favorites, looking like a ball of energy and color (in his braids as much as in his hype mens' threads). His vocal ability screamed to be appreciated, his every move was well orchestrated and his conversational commentary stole the show. Though he performed many of his own hits, he also hit the crowd with some others, including a taste of what was to come with Akon's Konvict Music. At the end of T-Pain's set, a half an hour later, his men dusted him off with a towel, a move showing of his deserving respect.
Next up with a little introduction difficulty on the station's side, Gym Class Heroes rose to the occasion. The Upstate New Yorkers gave the bash their all but weren't as well received as they should have been. It wasn't shocking that the only time the group seemed to really have the loyal listeners' attention was when the artists struck a familiar chord with "Cupid's Chokehold" (a song the sponsor station nearly makes a fan no longer fond of with over airplay).
Gym Class Heroes' attitude remained positive with multiple attempts to get the audience appreciation of their art, but to no avail. They played "Clothes Off!!" and "Viva La White Girl" to my immediate bliss, but ended after a disappointing 14-minute set, leaving a few followers craving more originals.
After a long break, during which the arena brights came on to shed some light on a violent situation taking place in the stands, Rihanna emerged like a dark porcelain doll. Her dress, her lipstick, her manicure and even a casual stocking cap over her expert haircut were all intricate and on point, and surprisingly so was her voice. Though she only graced us with a little over 20 minutes of stage time, she belted out hit after hit to the crowd's animated acceptance.
Another embarrassingly repetitive sound set by the radio station ensued before Akon, the final performer came to the stage. His hype man made sure all were ready for the expressive West African artist and he played right into the crowd's energy. After about six short songs, during which he shed a piece of clothing every other song, Akon ended the set so abruptly that I literally blinked and missed his parting message. People were left unfulfilled after the rapid exit but eventually started clearing the stadium. After famous face after famous face, most were content enough to have even been present for the tenfold stardom.