For the past three weeks, America has watched athletes transform years of hard work and dedication into jaw-dropping displays of athletic prowess. With that over, NBC now returns to its regularly scheduled America’s Got Talent, the show where a dude who can withstand multiple shots to the nuts is given a shot at $1 million. But if the 16 acts already ensured a spot in the AGT semifinals aren’t enough to get you excited about the rest of the season, on Tuesday night the nation bore witness to the annual “YouTube” show, an evening comprised of 12 acts that auditioned for the show online and were selected for a chance to fill the four remaining semifinals slots. Cue the madness.
Clint Carvalho and his Extreme Parrots: Carvalho, an expert bird trainer who describes himself as the “Evil Kenevil of parrots,” promised to make his pet cockatoo, Kitten, free-fall 100 feet from a building, swoop over a roof, glide through the open doors of the AGT theater and soar over the audience onto his arm. We had to see this! Sure enough, the almighty bird pulled it off. It was straight-up mind-blowing stuff. “You must be the bird whisperer,” proclaimed Sharon Osbourne. After admitting he stopped eating pheasant because, well, he’s not a “bird vampire,” Howard Stern told Carvalho he was impressed by the act, but wonders what else the man has in store. So do we.
Reverse Order: On paper, this pop-rock band from New Jersey fit the profile of a successful act: they were good-looking, seemed goofy enough to entertain and had the balls to perform Katy Perry’s lesbo-love-affair anthem “I Kissed A Girl.” But that’s where the accolades end. The foursome’s performance fell flat; the singer had little in the way of vocal range, the band came off as much too cheesy and even their impressive KISS-like theatrics at the song’s end were too little to save them. Stern said they “need time to gel,” while Howie Mandel said they merely looked like guys trying to act like rock stars.
Rudy Coby: A magician who claimed to make “nightmares come to life,” Coby, a spiky-haired creepy dude who was once Marilyn Manson’s roommate, was altogether a confusing act. Ninety-five percent of his performance was boring: he put a clown into a cage, made it dance around and then stood to the side after the clown transformed into one of the human-sized variety. But wouldn’t you know it, right at the end, after the clown ran offstage, it came back on, appeared to cut off Coby’s head, and then revealed himself to be – who else? – Coby. Like the judges, we wished Coby had revealed his skill sooner. “You can’t waste that much time,” Stern explained. , “Cut to the chase!” Osbourne said, before telling Coby he looked like a Nazi.
7 in Unison: We felt it was safe to assume that this seven-person teenage dance troupe would be different than your average recital-crew; after all, they had made it through via YouTube so they had to stand out, right? Not so much. Their Fosse-style jazz routine to Peggy Lee’s “You Give Me Fever,” while proficient, was too slow, drawn out, and high school-ish. “What makes you different than any other dance group?” Osbourne asked them. “I didn’t see it.”
Drew Ervin: OK, let’s start by saying that we weren’t surprised this 16-year-old from small town Tennessee, who plays guitar, sings and is a self-described football nut, was picked by fans to be the overall YouTube audition winner. He’s young, handsome, and has a decent voice. But what is dude doing playing Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn” for his first out-of-the-bedroom performance? As Randy Jackson would say, “Dawg, that was pitchy, yo!” Osbourne thought that Ervin, given his lack of experience, he did “extremely well. Stern and Mandel, however, feel he isn’t ready for the bright lights. “It’s just not your time yet,” Stern said.
Melinda Hill: Standup comics have fared quite well this season on AGT: Tom Cotter and Jacob Williams, both undeniable talents, are already in the semifinals. If anything, this young woman’s cringeworthy performance only served as evidence that those two men have mad skills. Her riffs centered around things her friends and mom tell her – not very original – before devolving into a bizarre, yet unfunny, interaction between herself and a U.K. customs agent. Bottom line: the performance fell flat. “Tonight’s material was the wrong choice,” Mandel said.
Eric Buss: At this point in the show, we were simply hoping for an act that was talented, let alone one that could compete with the crop of semifinal talent we’d watched in the previous weeks. Eric Buss, a master of “visual chaos,” was most certainly not what we were looking for. Buss’ entire act was him serving as a musical conductor, popping open cans of worms in sequence with the music, using some sort of homemade firing device to execute it all. In the end, all that was left on the stage was a gigantic mess and little clue as to what had just been performed. Stern called the act “a colossal waste of time” while Mandel, more diplomatically, told Buss he “should call Chuck E. Cheese.”
Romeo Dance Cheetah: Of course the next act was an air guitarist. This outlandish guy, who said he’s been training in air guitar his entire life, was actually fairly amusing . . . for about 15 seconds. After that, his air guitar rendition of The Darkness’ “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” was probably painful enough to make the theatrical rockers reconsider their reunion. “It looks like you’re playing with yourself,” Stern said. Mandel was a bit more blunt: “You have put too much time into this,” he said.
The Magic of Puck: It’s always pleasing when a contestant with a touching backstory – this magician has supported his family by performing on cruise ships all year long – actually delivers the goods. Puck’s magic trick on Tuesday – making a handkerchief dance around, zoom from side to side, etc. – wasn’t overly wowing. But it was definitely solid, especially when compared to the collection of horrific acts that preceded it. “You’ve got talent . . . and luck,” Mandel explained. “You’re lucky ’cause it’s not a good night.” Osbourne and Stern both agreed the performance needs to be “bigger and better” next time, but felt that Puck will be given that opportunity
Bria Kelly: We don’t fancy ourselves country experts by any means. But we do know that this 16-year-old’s rendition of Miranda Lambert’s “Gunpowder and Lead” was far from thrilling. Yes, Kelly has a powerful voice and, when compared to the night’s other acts, she will likely advance. But as any viewer of American Idol can attest, Season 11 contestant Skylar Laine delivered a far more impressive rendition of this tune only a few months back. Nonetheless, all three judges felt Kelly excelled; Mandel even called her the “standout” act of the night.
Cast in Bronze: This bizarre act featured a masked man playing a portable carillon – that’s essentially a collection of bells, similar to the kind you’d see in a church tower, whose sound is triggered by what appears to be something of the keyboard variety. After rewatching it, we were still left confused. The unidentified man’s performance of “Carol of the Bells” was actually riveting – that is, if it hadn’t been so shrouded in strangeness. The judges didn’t agree, however. “I’m very confused by you,” Osbourne said. Stern, as always, pulled no punches: “I would never go see a show of this,” he said.
Academy of Villains: Thankfully, the final act on Tuesday night was also its best. A theater-based hip-hop dance company hailing from San Francisco, Academy of Villains wowed with a performance that combined acting, intense, cohesive hip-hop moves and overall swagger. One minute the crew were making their red sleeves appear as mouths singing along to Queens’ “Bohemian Rhapsody”; the next they were wilding out with slinky moves that would make Usher nod in approval. “It’s been a tough one tonight,” Osbourne said, “but it was worth it to get to you!”
PREDICTION: On Wednesday night’s results show Karmin will perform and four YouTube acts will make it to the semifinals. Our predictions? Clint Carvalho and his Extreme Parrots, the Magic of Puck, Bria Kelly, and Academy of Villains.
Last Recap: Head in the Sand