Fresh off my first-ever five-for-five prediction perfection, it's time for the final group of
quarterfinalists to hit the stage for a shot to advance to the Top 24. The voters, the judges and, most especially, me got it right last week, so here's hoping things play out as they should once again.
There have been very few shaft jobs this time around (Flight Crew Jump Rope! I hope you guys love how much I harp on your untimely elimination at the hands of these judges!), which is both comforting and disconcerting. Because it also means the level of talent isn't quite where you'd hope it would be.
I mean, if all the acts were that amazing, the decisions would be a whole heck of a lot tougher. It seems there's a clear distinction between the haves and the have nots, and I anticipate most of the acts that are deserving of advancement to claim the wildcard spots.
I'm not sure if there's going to be a wildcard show where 12 eliminated acts get another shot or if, more likely, the judges each get one pick (I haven't looked at the finale timeline). But not including anyone from the group about to perform, the four to gun for are part of a clearly-defined frontrunner group consisting of Flight Crew Jump Rope, the Willis Clan, Adrian Romoff, Anna Clendening, Valo and Bobby and Acte II.
And there's always the off-chance Howie Mandel puts through Juan Carlos.
With the exception of Flight Crew (again!), every "must-advance" quarterfinalist has moved on, so I don't think you can argue that anyone has truly gotten hosed. And the rest is up to the final group of 12: Bad Boys of Ballet, Kelli Glover, Dom the Bomb's Triple Threat, Emil and Dariel, Nina Burri, Quintavious Johnson, Extreme, Jonah Smith, Mothman Dance, Jonatan Riquelme, Smoothini and the One Voice Children's Choir.
Let's see who steps up and who falls short. It's time to kick the tires and light the fires, big daddy!
And don't forget, the blog is live, so keep the comments coming. Otherwise, I'm just a sad lonely guy blogging for myself, wallowing in the fact that none of my family members or friends care enough to join in on the conversation. So for the next two hours, YOU'LL be my friends. And I'll show everyone. Then they'll see...
On with the show! (And on a side note, I'm really enjoying catching the last 10 minutes of Food Fighters every week leading up to AGT. I mean, I don't wanna watch the whole thing, but 10 minutes is just about perfect.)
The Live Blog Begins Now
As we kick things off, the promo reveals that each judge will in fact be bringing one act along to the semis. Will they announce any of them tonight? Because that might be messed-up. But either way, here we go.
Nick Cannon's jacket is obviously inside out, as the pattern on that sport coat resembles either the wallpaper or carpet of a trashy Atlantic City casino. Though it's much, much shinier. And Heidi Klum isn't the only one showing some skin, with Howard Stern going undershirt-less and four buttons deep. Mel B. is oddly conservative. Maybe it's cold in the theater.
The Bad Boys of Ballet Have a Chick
We're jumping right into the action, and first up is the Bad Boys of Ballet. The female leader created the group to bring ballet into the 21st century, and she and her ridiculously awesome abs crack the whip on these boys. They're dedicated to a clean and innovative performance.
Aptly enough, the guys are in blue and the lady is in pink. Wow, she has quite an impressive booty as well. But I can't stare forever because the routine is worthy of watching, too. The timing is on-point and the moves smooth and flowing, while also incorporating elements of martial arts and hip-hop. It sets the bar pretty high, and now we'll have to see if they get lost in the shuffle.
Mel B. just loves them, and the energy and the sophistication and the grace and the elegance, and it's all bubbly for her. Howie thinks they're good, but it wasn't bad or edgy enough to fit the group's name. Heidi, who has 4-year-old and 10-year-old ballerinas at home, loved it and knows her kids were inspired. Howard agrees with Howie, saying it just wasn't enough, and he compares the routine to an aerobics class.
While I enjoyed it, I have to agree that the visual (and not the moves, per say) did have a particular "Let's Get Physical" feel to it.
One Voice Children's Choir Belts It Out
This group of 100 kids are best friends, and their leader loves them and cares for them like his own. And traveling is always a chore because there are just so darn many of them. Their claim to fame is that after Howie dubbed them "not diamonds," Howard Stern got on his knees and begged Mel B. to send them through.
I'll start off by saying that I'm just not a fan of most choirs, at least not in competitions like this. The sheer volume of people, kids or adults, is overwhelming, especially where there's always one or two standouts who deserve to perform solo. Those feelings aside, this rendition of "Let It Go" just doesn't do it for me. They sound off-kilter, and the 99 definitely take away from the vocal prowess of the One.
Howard is a big fan, but he's got to be very honest, and he just doesn't think they did enough. Howie thinks the song choice and not the performance is what gives them a chance to go through. Heidi loves all 100 of them and thinks they sound better than her daughter and a hairbrush microphone (high praise). And Mel B. believes they stepped it up a notch.
Jonah Smith Takes Out an Insurance Policy
By day, he's an insurance salesman. By night, he's a piano-playing rockstar. This 39-year-old has been performing for decades, but he needed to get a real job to support his wife and to start a family. But awesomely-supportive wife Elizabeth is still captivated by him every time he takes the stage, and this 90 seconds is the biggest opportunity he'll ever have to chase his dream.
He's performing a bluesy rendition of Sam Smith's "Stay with Me," and I'm torn. I love his take and I'm a fan, even getting goosebumps a bit, but I just don't know if it's truly star-worthy. I hope we get to hear him again, but for me, this early in the night, I just don't know if he was mind-blowing enough. But I liked it.
Howard says singers come and go and he can't always remember who they are, but he always remembers Jonah because he's the real deal who moves people. Heidi has only one thing to say: "Stay with me, here on AGT." Mel B. loves the song and the rendition, but she feels like Jonah was affected by the pressure. Howie thinks he's the best of the three who have performed so far, and he thinks Jonah is in good hands.
It would appear, however, that "didn't do enough" is the theme of the night thus far.
Dom the Bom's Triple Threat, Well, Bombs
Our trio of Nevada triplets -- Dominic, Lyric and Phoenix -- are card tosser extraordinaires. Dom is the thrower, with a pair of sibling assistants who hold the vegetation he slices.
Dom misses several times and hilariously breaks off the top of a celery stalk that doesn't quite dice properly. Then he knocks down some empty water bottles and sticks cards in cucumbers and a watermelon before shooting them out into the audience. It's always a shame when you have to tell kids they let you down, huh?
Heidi is nice and calls it entertaining and fun, while Mel B. loves the family relationship but thinks it was too busy. Howie praises the talent and the novelty, but he wants more triplet-on-triplet action. Howard doesn't want be the mean judge or prompt tears, but he thinks the act has seen better days.
The best part of the whole thing is Dom constantly tossing cards at Nick during the commentary.
Is Extreme Extreme Enough?
Extreme is an acrobatic dance group made up of different types of performers from different walks of life, but they come together on stage as a family. For many of them, this is their escape from the drudgery and dangers of the streets. They've all found a home in this place.
If anyone was considering voting for the Bad Boys of Ballet, this performance should make you think otherwise. They have aerials, break dancing and even a bit of contortion, and the choreography is lightning fast and in perfect rhythm. Now that's an energetic performance.
Heidi calls it a dynamite spectacle that brought things to a higher level, but Mel B. found the outfits and choreography dated and didn't think the performers pushed themselves at all. Howie picked up on a lot more passion, but more important, he was amazed by the little girl in the front who got tossed around like a flipping ragdoll. Howard agrees with Mel that this performance is forgettable, and he doesn't think anyone will remember it five minutes from now.
Emil and Dariel Make Grandpa Proud
Emil and Dariel are rock and roll cellists who learned from grandpa, a hard-working Russian immigrant. He helped make a better life for his family and particularly his grandsons, and they're doing all this to make him proud and push (and break) the limits of what a cello can do. All three have been awaiting this day all their lives, to perform on one of the world's greatest stages.
It's "Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones, and I'm sure both grand-dad and the rock legends are proud. It's enthralling, but again, I don't know if it's memorable enough outside of the fact that it's just so different and unexpected. I'm thinking the inclusion of the live guitarist and drummer detracted a bit.
Howie commends them on proving that "there's always room for cello." Howard is a huge fan and was looking forward to this performance all week, and he deems it just as memorable as their Hendrix. Heidi remembers being very surprised the first time and wants a new classical/rock star category. Mel B. dubs it off the chain.
I think they'll move through to the next round, I just hope they find a way to ratchet it up a notch. It was too much of what I expected and not enough wow factor. I think there's tons of potential for improvement, and I would've gone with "Paint It Black" over "Satisfaction." Maybe something from The Who next?
Nina Burri Bends and Bends and Bends
Nina and her husband fell in love at first sight, just like she did with contortion. But at the age of 13, there was no market. So she trained to be a ballerina before realizing her dreams were not being fulfilled. So at the age of 30, she switched things up and went to China to study. And it must've been a good decision because here she is at Radio City Music Hall.
I'll admit, I've been looking forward to her. I mean, who doesn't love hot bendy chicks? That being said, she's probably the most graceful and controlled contortionist who's appeared on AGT, at least in a long time. There's never even the slightest of stumbles, and she ends the show with a piercing stare from those bright blue eyes. Still, I could've used that one show-stopping move.
Howard finds her stunning, captivating and mesmerizing, and he applauds her for the story and choices that brought her here. Heidi popped a hammy, but she's not sure if it's big enough for this large of a venue. Mel B. thought the performance was too short, and she didn't want it to stop. She even uses the phrase "graceful spider." Howie was wondering why his wife can't do that, and he raves about Nina's drop-dead sexiness.
Quintavious Johnson is the Man (of the House)
I've been looking forward to this little dude since Judgment Week, and he dubs his single mother "Supermom." He's energetic and outgoing and humble all at the same time, and he's sure to bring it.
The decision to sing "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" seems odd to me at first, and I thought it was a mistake until he hits the chorus and blows it out of the water. He's got a huge voice and America is bound to love him to pieces. He gets a huge standing ovation, and he slayed a ridiculously difficult song. Still a strange choice, though.
Heidi can't stop raving about the amazingly powerful Quintavious and calls the performance perfect. Mel wonders what the heck just happened and commends Quintavious for his gift, which garners the loudest reaction of the evening. Howie tells him he needs to start thinking about what he's going to do with a million bucks, and Howard thinks puberty is the only thing that can derail the Quintavious Train.
Mothmen Dance Fulfills the Prophecy
The two who started this group have spent the last several years behind the scenes, doing work for other dancers. And now they're out of the shadows and into the spotlight, like the backup vocalist who finally goes solo. The intro even gets emotional when the dude starts talking about his kids, who he apparently doesn't get to see much.
This group has performed before, but this is the first time they try to tell a story with the routine. And the wildness of the dance suffers because of it. That's not necessarily a bad thing, it's just different and a bit unexpected. They fall from a building and somehow end up dancing on the moon. I'm not as wowed as I would've liked, so it's just middle of the pack for me.
Mel B. is a big fan but can't hide her disappointment about feeling like something is missing, calling it repetitive. Howie says it's innovative and wishes he could've seen more, and Howard believes it was interesting, fun, exciting and, most important, memorable. Heidi thinks it was clever and comic-book like, but she feels like they relied too much on the video behind them.
On to Smoothini!
No commercial break before we jump right into the Ghetto Houdini from Washington Heights. He wowed in the audition round, so much so that he skipped right through Judgment Week. He's full of personality, and he has to be one of the most anticipated acts of the night.
He's employing cold hard cash for this trick, as well as Howie and Mel B. He places a stack of ones in Mel's hand, then taps it and turns them into hundreds. He fans them out on the table, then turns one of them into a $50, then down to a $20, followed by a $10 before it all disappears. He then moves the holographic seal to the other side of a $100 bill before making a goldfish appear in a glass of water. Interesting way to cap things off. How does the fish fit into the monetary equation?
I'm sure it was great on stage, but that did not wow me at all. I don't even get what the point of it all was. Changing a dollar bill? Isn't that something every magician can do? With my expectations as sky-high as they were and this guy's potential, I can't imagine being more let down. Hmph.
Heidi loves him and magic is a favorite, but this one didn't cut it for her. Still, she's rooting for him. Mel B. thinks it was great but that the entertainment factor wasn't big enough, while Howie disagrees with both of them and thinks America could see the close-up action. Howard found it peculiar and calls it a mess. He didn't like the blocking, saying it felt like it was taking place in a bar and everyone was stuck with the worst seat in the house.
Jonatan Riquelme Defies Logic ... and Death
This dude is a fifth generation circus performer, and he does the pipe balancing that always leaves the audience on edge. The guy who did this last season actually fell during his performance, and it's so mind-boggling that anyone can even do this stuff.
He takes it to an entirely different level, though, doing all his pipe balancing while swaying back and forth on a swing. He even does a handstand. On the swing. While balancing on a board on top of a pipe. He caps it off by balancing on three upright and two roll-y Tinker Toys, on the swing, from high above the stage. The sheer level of danger is insane. It makes tight-rope walking look like walking across a balance beam in the Olympics. Not even flipping. Just walking.
Mel B. calls it a terrifying stunt that you can't take your eyes off of, while Heidi was scared and thinks he's great. Howard says they've had several acts like this throughout the years, and this is the best one and the first Rolla Bolla act that deserves to be in the finals. Howie wants to know why there's no mat. Why not have a mat??
Kelli Glover Closes the Show
This repeat AGT-er lands the pimp spot, meaning they really want her to advance. She improved over her Judgment Week elimination in 2009, and she improved from her audition to this version of Judgment Week. So where does she go now? Song choice and the decision of whether to belt it out or restrain will be huge, as will the pressure of being the final performer of the quarterfinal round.
Bathed in a smoky fog and lasers, Kelli launches into a subdued rendition of Alicia Keys' "If I Ain't Got You." She opens up her range during the chorus, and it's spot-on outside of a bad note or three. I do not get goosebumps, but based on the competition and show placement, she's a lock to move on.
Heidi calls it an unforgettable and flawless performance, while Mel B. knocks her for starting out without confidence before hitting her stride on the chorus. Howard worries about her nerves and cautions her against viewing this as "a second chance at life," and Howie says she ended the night perfectly by inspiring everyone to never give up on their dreams.
Overall, it was a pretty mediocre night of performances. Quintavious Johnson, Jonatan Riquelme and Emil and Dariel are the most deserving and should be locks to advance. Then you've got Kelli Glover and Nina Burri, who did what they do without any setbacks. Smoothini is a wildcard after a routine that didn't come close to expectations, but he's got the potential.
Our three dance acts all left something to be desired, while the kid acts that don't start with the letter Q were clearly unable to match the rest of the talent. And that leaves Jonah Smith to either blend in or disrupt the natural order of things.
So who is staying and who is going? Who were your favorites, and who let you down? And can Smoothini's potential carry him, especially on a subpar night of competition? We'll find out during the results show on Wednesday night, when we'll finally get to see Taylor Williams actually do something live after last week's gyp job.
As always, the blog will be live, so check it and watch along with BuddyTV! See you then, as we round out our Top 24!
You can watch America's Got Talent every Tuesday and Wednesday night at 9pm on NBC.
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