The 83 degree weather promised a sweltering day in the sun, peppered with the sounds of familiar faces in popular music, amidst anticipated lengthy delays between acts. But unlike last year, the 2008 B96 Summer Bash, at Toyota Park on June 14, brought something much more pleasant, as the heat was tame, the breeze was just right, and shade from the Chicago Fire Stadium walls was ample for most. Baking at stage right though, B96 fans, filling the stands more as evening hit, didn't seem to mind being shined on during the all-day shindig. The brief breaks between acts, filled with live entertainment and enough dance music to keep concert-goers content, helped them to forget the heat, and get down with the sounds that pumped from the stage.
The five-hour pre-bash stage welcomed acts like Jerzy, Phoenix Phenom, and DJ Spin, among others, and gave the fans time to file into the outdoor amphitheater in Bridgeview, IL. Ben One, R&B crooner of "Never Leave My Girl" featuring Shawnna, was up first for the main acts, just before 5 p.m. He and Atlanta-based threesome, C-Side (of the hit "Boyfriend/Girlfriend" with Keyshia Cole) each performed short sets of about 15 minutes, before the station's own DJ Flipside and his dancers came in to keep the crowd dancing. From new school to old school, the bash made sure there was something for all age groups. Next up, TKA and K7 performed for the 25-and-overs, who were few and far between, but still in the crowd. The Puerto Rican group (formerly known as just TKA) who released the '90s hit "Maria", and later, "Come Baby Come" by spinoff solo singer K7, performed without much recognition among the young crowd. The sound wasn't the greatest, with microphone volumes deafening, foreshadowing possibly something other than a come back in store for these stars.
Natasha Bedingfield reminded the crowd why they were there with her timeless voice. She stepped on stage looking somewhat boho chic, wearing her hair shorter, and sticking out from under her red stocking cap. With a Wonder Woman shirt, jean skirt, boots, and bright accessories, she rocked the microphone, hitting every tone effortlessly. The British star had the crowd singling along with her latest album title-track, "Pocket Full of Sunshine," "Love Like This," (her hit featuring Sean Kingston), the first song she released in America "These Words (I Love You, I Love You)," and, MTV The Hill's theme song, "Unwritten" with a twist. Floridian Flo Rida followed, starting with his hit "Elevator" and continued on with "In The Ayer" Featuring Will.I.Am and the song that made him huge, "Low" featuring T-Pain. With each song, it seemed, the star lost a shirt, starting with his white t-shirt and then his undershirt, showing off his tattoo-tagged back and bulging build. After about a half hour of his talent, fellow Florida native Pitbull was about to start his show. As a DJ started onstage alone, pumping the sounds from Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight," the sun started to set and as the song went on, the anticipation grew louder as people cheered for the Cuban-American star. Just as the fans couldn't take the tease anymore, Pitbull stepped on stage sporting a white tee and matching tennis shoes, that carried him on a run across stage in a slower speed than his Twista-like tongue. He performed multiple hits, including "Dammit Man" and "Fuego," meaning Fire, which he was on, all the way until he left the stage.
DJ Flipside came back to fill the gap that female artist Cascada left. Without a schedule in front of you though, you would not have noticed a break in the entertainment where the female artist didn't make it to the stage (for unknown reasons). Jesse McCartney took to the stage instead, stealing the young women's hearts with his smartly dressed appearance and sleek persona. In a white shirt and black tie, his eyes shaded from the slowly setting sun, he launched into "How Do You Sleep," and followed it with the 2004 hit "Beautiful Soul". Then, for more from his recent album, Departure, "It's Over". After some flawless high notes, and only five songs, he was finished, ending fittingly, with "Leavin'". Ray J was up next and dressed for the Chicago Scene, decked out in a navy blue shirt, and sporting a Cubs cap. He knocked more than one hit out of the park, over and over, first with "Wait A Minute". During "Gifts," Ray J invited B96 ladies Erica, and Showbiz Shelly up on stage as his backup dancers, and then continued with "One Wish". A fight broke out high in the bleachers, but most attention stayed on the singer and his heart-felt ending to the song. Sweat glistened off his face on the big screen projection and he held the last note for an extended period. He impresses the fans with "Sexy Can I," before exiting the stage.
Before we knew it, DJ Flipside was back with his dancers, revving up the crowd for the next two acts. Right back on schedule, Danity Kane came out and kicked their performance off with the signature first hit from their Bad Boy's Making The Band, "Show Stopper". Next, they connected with the women in the audience with "Bad Girl" off their latest album Welcome to the Dollhouse, though the connection didn't exactly happen with the synchronicity of the choreography. The ladies then chose unsuspecting men out of the audience to come up for a lap-dance-like freestyle dance to their song "Ecstasy". To hit on the other side of love, the girls performed their latest, "Damaged," during which Aubrey received, and donned, a shirt thrown on stage from the audience over her corset-like stage outfit.
Last, but definitely not least, T-Pain stomped on stage to bring back the macho energy, but started with a snippet for the strong females, as he covered Webbie's "Independent" mixed with a Gnarls Barkley track. His stage presence was loud and luxurious; underneath a purple suit and matching top hat, the singer sported a shirt that read in big yellow letters, "Born Rich". With his talent, and the two hype men on stage supporting it, it was easy to believe. T-Pain furthered the image by singing about "getting' money" and remixed a Kanye West song before launching into his own "I'm Sprung", taking us back to 2005. Within the almost 20 tracks and snippets T-Pain graced the crowd with before wrapping up the bash, were "Shawty Get Loose," "Buy U A Drank," and Chris Brown's "Kiss Kiss," on which the performer was featured. Before leaving the show, T-Pain promised to keep "runnin' things" with his third album to come in September, titled Thr33 Rings. The album is expected to feature more of the collaborations that the performer is known best for.
The Summer Bash, a much-awaited show by many music fans, was every bit of the success it promised to be in its self-promotion on the airwaves. The star acts and all breaks in between ran more than smoothly, and everything, including a missing artist from the lineup, went off without a hitch.