Get the ambulances ready because America’s Got Talent goes live tonight. The live shows will take place in New York’s Radio City Music Hall, where the 60 remaining contestants will perform for live audiences, and we’ll be live blogging the proceedings right here every week.
Meet the Top 60 Acts of America’s Got Talent >>>
The live blog starts now:
The evening begins with a goofy opening ceremony featuring the Rockettes, in which the judges all make grand entrances. Much is made of the fact that Radio City Music Hall is a lovely venue and the judges are all geniuses and the talent is the best ever, so congratulations to them.
Anna Christine, an 11-year-old singer, starts out the performances with a soulful piano rendition of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” She loses track of the backing track at one point, but it’s an entirely forgivable mistake given her age and nerve-racking position. At her best, her voice really is pretty amazing — it just remains to be seen if she can overcome her nerves.
Up next is the TV-based dance act tellAvision, performing a love song routine to “Beneath Your Beautiful.” I wasn’t really blown away by their initial routine, but tonight’s dance feels like a far more focused effort. The performance divides the judges down the middle, with Howie and Mel endorsing their uniqueness, while Heidi and Howard take against them pretty strongly — Howard is a particularly vocal detractor.
The military rock band American Hitmen comes next, performing a hard rock gospel take on the Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends,” borrowing heavily from the Joe Cocker version. Howard and Heidi are measured in their praise, but Mel and Howie are over the moon for them — a pattern seems to be emerging here.
Then there’s Special Head, who declares in his pre-taped package that he wants to touch as many people as possible. His segment isn’t all that impressive this time around: the lighting and grandiosity allow for an infinite number of explanations for how he does his weak levitation trick, and the big corny camera zoom-up to Head on the roof doesn’t do much to amaze either — there’s none of the “how’d he do that” quality of his first audition. The judges rightly note that he’s an act of diminishing returns.
On a more precious side of things, we have the kid dance group Fresh Faces. I don’t think there’s any arguing with the group’s cuteness, but it’s not really a “million dollar act,” as they say — they’re pulling off some solid gymnastics, but there’s no cohesive wow factor. The female judges think they’re great, but the men aren’t all that impressed.
The teen magician Collins Key is up next, performing a Twitter-based routine. Other than his insistence on saying swag a couple times, it’s a pretty spectacular routine: the judges tweet random words, and he produces their tweets from a locked box. He gets a well-deserved standing ovation.
Kevin Downey, Jr.
The first comedian of the night is the odd-postured, squealing Kevin Downey Jr. He’s under-served by the sound mix, but the cuts to the crowd show that he’s doing well — the energy of the character is a bit monotone, but it’s a solid little set. Much like the rest of America, I imagine, the judges are split on him — Heidi is particularly offended by a chloroform joke, which doesn’t bode well for any of the comedians here, honestly.
Aaralyn & Izzy
We then have a total novelty act, earning the first X of the night from Howard. They’re clearly way out of their league and have been the entire time, but their presence is almost justified by tonight’s big fun rock show, with Izzy the drummer descending from a platform on the ceiling. The judges all respond to this one pretty obnoxiously: Howard is unnecessarily mean, Howie is unjustifiably enthusiastic and the other two are non-committal — all that needs to be said is that this was fun and they can go home happy.
Alexandria the Great
Escape artist Alexandria the Great performs a variation on her earlier death-defying escape, this time escaping from an underwater straight jacket in a tightly constrained box. She makes it out in just over a minute, first taking off the jacket and then picking the lock on the box with bobby pins. Mel raises the point that this sort of escape might not be suited to a full show, but there’s no arguing that she commands the room during her minute onstage.
The KriStef Brothers
As the episode carries on past feature length, the KriStef Brothers bring a welcome bit of levity to the show. While past performances from these two have toed the line between camp and talent, they go fully comedic tonight: their feats of strength are supplemented by a healthy dose of body humor and glitter. Self-awareness is a huge positive for these guys, and Howard declares them to be the best act of the night.
The Hawaiian dance troop Hype is up next, performing another electro-swing hip-hop routine. I have a tough time with groups like this: they’re amazingly talented, of course, but routines like this are so prevalent on shows like this that I’m a little desensitized to them. The judges largely feel that way as well, praising them for being above average, but not much more than that.
The last performer of the evening is tenor Branden James, performing the Josh Groban song “You Raise Me Up.” He has the demeanor of a consummate professional, and gets the audience on their feet — not much to say about him other than he had a very successful night.
That does it for the first night of live performances — with 60 total acts, we still have a long way to go. Four will be chosen from tonight’s group to move on to the semi-finals, based on call-in, online and Twitter votes. We’ll be back tomorrow to live-blog the results.
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(Image courtesy of NBC)