Following the first batch of semifinal performances last week on America’s Got Talent, the nation cast its vote and put two acts into the finals: comedian Tom Cotter and alternative-instrumentalist William Close. The judges then picked sand-splaying artist Joe Castillo to join them in next week’s finale. Last night, the remaining 12 semifinal acts took the stage, each hoping to prove worthy of the coveted $1 million prize at season’s end.
All That: Before Sharon Osbourne saved them in the quarterfinals, this chiseled clogging crew promised they’d do something outrageous in the semis. Now they had their chance. What did they do? The dudes lit their feet on fire and stomped up a storm before moving into small pools of water and splashing seamlessly to the sound. It was by far the group’s best showing to date. “It was absolutely a delight!” fan-girl Osbourne exclaimed. Howard Stern concurred, telling the guys they took direction well and stepped up their game. Howie Mandel felt otherwise. “I find what you do very good but one-dimensional,” he said.
Sebastian “el charro de oro”: We’d be lying if we said we were thrilled to see this young mariachi singer advance to the semis; his last performance of “New York, New York” was lounge singer-y at best. This time however, the little man brought out the big guns: Sebastian’s semifinal performance included a full orchestra, his entire band and a sashaying woman whom he seduced mid-song. Yet, all the panache could not convince us of his final-round worthiness. The judges, though, were sold. “You stun me!” declared Mandel. Added Stern, “You are a Mexican superhero.”
The Magic of Puck: An illusionist from Stern’s hometown, Puck was told he needed to go bigger for his semifinal performance. Did the magician deliver? Yup! After having Stern autograph a handkerchief and then wrapping it on his assistant’s wrist, Puck had her lay on a table, covered her, and levitated her in the air. Just as she got sky high, the sheet fell away and, naturally, she was gone. Where did she end up? In a box, side-stage, of course. It was pretty darn impressive. “You proved that you can step it up,” Stern remarked. Osbourne called the performance “flawless” and Mandel said “it was truly a great magic act.”
Clint Carvallo and his Extreme Parrots: In his first performance, this YouTube-discovered contestant had his parrot, Kitty, free-fall from a massive building, fly into a theater and land on his arm. How would he top it? By having his bird dance, drop an envelope into a mailbox, fly through hoops in the audience and take a can of soda from Osbourne and bring it back to him. If you’re thinking this doesn’t compare to his first performance, you’re probably right. Mandel and Stern both agreed Caravllo’s performance this go-round felt more like an amusement-park act than a headlining show in Vegas. “This all feels a little bit like a kid’s party,” Stern said. “It doesn’t feel like a million dollar act.”
Jacob Williams: With Tom Cotter already in the finals, this agonizingly awkward comedian had his work cut out for him. Did he come through? Sadly, he did not. Williams made one nonsensical joke after another, including riffs about confusing a “what-type-of-cheese” question at Subway with a marital status inquiry (it was as bizarre as it sounds) and naming his future kid George Foreman. Osbourne and Mandel were cordial, if distant. Stern however, pulled no punches: he told Williams that he sensed the comedian was nervous. “I think tonight you stumbled,” he said. “This was not your strongest material.”
Shanice and Maurice Hayes: Ever since their initial audition, it’s been obvious that Shanice, 18, is a far better singer than her father, Maurice. And while the judges have urged this father-daughter duo to let her take a more prominent role, the contestants continue to ignore their advice. Last night, the duo performed a sub-par rendition of Mariah Carey’s “Anytime You Need a Friend.” Of course, host (and Carey hubby) Nick Cannon dug the song choice. The judges though, were not nearly as into it. “This act right now is kind of like a cheesy cruise act,” Mandel explained. Stern agreed. “I think a moment was missed,” he said.
All Wheel Sports: We already knew this stunt team – which includes BMX riders, acrobats and cheerleaders – was a bit overwhelming. Last night it was no longer even enjoyable to watch: There was simply too much chaos. Adding insult to injury, one of the BMX riders took a nasty spill at the climax of the performance. Ironically, the screw-up was the only part Stern enjoyed. “The mistake was the most exciting part,” he said. “I needed that ‘oh, wow!’ moment.” Mandel and Osbourne however, were far more impressed. “It’s Cirque du Soleil-meets-the X Games,” Mandel said. “It’s amazing.”
Tim Hockenberry: Wielding a voice eerily reminiscent of Joe Cocker’s, this middle-aged singer possesses a potent weapon – if he uses it wisely, that is. Last go-round Hockenberry sang a bizarre adaptation of Katy Perry’s “Part of Me.” But last night he opted for a spare rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Accompanied by a cellist, Hockenberry’s vocals were simply stirring. “This was the most moving performance we’ve had from a singer in a long time,” Stern proclaimed, adding that every time he hears “Imagine” he thinks about “that jackass who murdered John Lennon.” Mandel said he digs Hockenberry’s voice, but worries that it may not be original enough to advance to the finals.
The Untouchables: If you’d told us before last night that we’d be blown away by a team of 13-and-younger dancers, we’d have called you crazy. But this group of Florida youngsters absolutely wowed us last night with their professional-caliber routine. Their tango was slick, proficient and tight in execution; they also mixed in a costume change mid-routine to great effect. “Your technique is so locked in,” Osbourne said. “It’s absolutely fantastic.” In one of the night’s most touching moments, the youngest member of the group, who is eight, began to cry during Mandel’s critique because she was so happy and proud of how hard her group had worked on their dance. “Keeping crying out of happiness,” Mandel said. “The hard work paid off!”
Olate Dogs: It’s hard not to enjoy a gaggle of adorable dogs performing unfeasibly difficult tricks, and thankfully, they didn’t disappoint. The dogs jumped rope; they rode a razor scooter together; they did back flips. The biggest moment? The two trainers and a new dog, Bella, did simultaneous barrel rolls and jumps in rapid chain-reaction fashion. “I am begging everyone to vote!” Osbourne pleaded. “I want to see these angels again.” Stern was direct: “You guys have to be in the finals,” he said. “If you’re not, it’s a crime.”
Lightwire Theater: It’s always thrilling when an act progressively improves with each passing round. Such is the case with this collection of visual performers, who use futuristic light technology and dance movements to create the effect of dinosaurs duking it out. On Tuesday things got even crazier: the “dinosaurs” fought with light sabers, ducked and jumped in slo-mo Matrix style, and watched as a baby dino hatched out of an egg. “You deserve $1 million,” Mandel said following their performance. “You deserve your own headlining show.” Osbourne corrected her co-judge: “You are going to have your own headlining show,” she told the smiling group of performers.
David Garibaldi and his CMYKS: Closing out the show in grand style, the painter and his team of dancers/assistants bounded about the stage, splashing paint on four green boards. Things took a while to develop, but after a minute or so, the four boards were linked together, hoisted in the air, and then dropped to reveal a grafitti-esque take on the Statue of Liberty. It was certainly impressive. But we have to wonder how this act would possibly develop into a Vegas headliner. The judges didn’t seem to have any reservations. “I do believe you will be one of the acts to go through,” said Stern, who cautioned Garibaldi to make the act progress faster during each respective routine. “You are not just an artist,” Mandel said. “You are a creator.”
PREDICTIONS: With a one-day break to make room for the NFL’s season opener, AGT fans must wait until Thursday to find out which three acts advance to the finals. Our picks: The Untouchables, Olate Dogs and Lightwire Theater.
Last recap: Finalists Revealed