Fly Summer Jam sizzles with fun

Natasha Bedingfield, in many ways the main event at the first Fly Summer Jam in close to 10 years, h

Natasha Bedingfield, in many ways the main event at the first Fly Summer Jam in close to 10 years, hit the stage Saturday at Altamont Fairgrounds just as the heat was finally dying down. But fortunately, things were only cooling off weather-wise.

As the second-to-last performer on a 10-act bill, Bedingfield had the challenge of pumping up an already exhausted, overheated crowd, and she certainly stepped up to it. Aided by a rock-solid backing band, Bedingfield blasted through such hits as “These Words (I Love You, I Love You)” and “Single” off debut album “Unwritten” and her latest, “Pocketful of Sunshine,” with energy and conviction. A souped up version of Madonna’s “Ray of Light” got the crowd going and added to her already varied set.

Bedingfield’s likable pop sound and sunny disposition was infectious, although at times the singer did seem to be a bit more distant from the audience than some of the other acts that came before her. Not so with Simple Plan, who played a squeaky-clean pop-punk set right before her.

The rockers got some of the loudest applause of any of the Summer Jam artists, especially during the radio hit “Welcome to My Life.” The group was at its strongest during the upbeat “Shut Up” and “Time to Say Goodbye,” with frontman Pierre Bouvier bouncing up and down like a madman, urging the audience to “make some noise” at just about every occasion. The material did begin to get tiresome after a while, but the group has an easily likable sound,and wasn’t on long enough to overstay its welcome.

Earlier in the afternoon, Simple Plan’s fellow Canadians Sum 41 tore through their own even more energetic set of rockers. At the very least, the band was the loudest to hit the stage at Summer Jam.

The group apparently didn’t get the memo about keeping things clean, though, as frontman Deryck Whibley threw in a curse word at just about every opening possible.

The band had more variation in its sound than Simple Plan, with a larger back catalogue from which to draw. Touring guitarist Tom Thacker, replacing Dave Baksh, proved his worth with some ripping solos on songs such as “Still Waiting” and the 2000 hit “Fat Lip.”

Curiously enough, Sum 41’s snotty punk rock was wedged between two American Idol alums, Blake Lewis and Ace Young. Lewis was the real surprise here, beat-boxing and singing with real skill.

Unfortunately, he was cut off after just three songs, “1,000 Miles” being the strongest of the batch.

Perhaps even more surprising, though, was C+C Music Factory’s Freedom Williams, who got everyone, young and old, jumping to such old school hits as “Things That Make You Go Hmmm” and of course, the insanely danceable “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now).” Williams’ performance could very well sum up the whole show — lighthearted, relaxed and, most of all, just plain fun.

Categories: Life and Arts

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