Longest-running America’s Got Talent judge, Howie Mandel, must have had a true premonition of the evening this week when he advised that the Radio City Music Hall would either “make you or break you,” under the pressure of auditioning for the semifinals, with only four of the dozen acts going forward. It didn’t take long to see and feel the effects of that pressure, and only a select few stood up and stood out under the weight. Many made choices that defied logic, and lost the allure of their original auditions, but those that rose to their moment proved they were ready for any stage.
The dancing darlings of Innovative Force really put their heart into their routine, even opening with a moving cluster as a beating heart, and plenty of throws, tumbles, and twirls to prove their acrobatic prowess, proving they were more than just tiny dancers. Mel B deemed them “definitely exciting,” and Howie Mandel called the routine “dangerous.” Howard Stern commended them in their athleticism, and Heidi Klum pumped the gals up in noting they did it all “without a guy.” It is been a tough go for other dance groups. Will the votes mark their acrobatic distinction? Dynamite singer, Ciana Pelekai, tried to fill big shoes by singing Emeli Sande’s sensational song, “Next to Me,” but her big production swallowed her at times, perched on her plexiglass box, the power of her pure voice seemed diminished. Howard Stern said as much, as Heidi called her “really good” in spite of the over-doing. Howie Mandel praised that Ciana had “the whole package” as an entertainer, and that this could be the “year of the youth” for the competition. Mel B, herself the singer, yearned for “more simplicity” from the gifted 12-year-old with a certain future ahead. Alexandr Magala hails from Moldova in Russia, but summons his courage from some unknown place within. Despite an earlier injury from rehearsal that cut him inside, he brought Howie Mandel and the audience to ovation with his torch dancing before ingesting another lengthly sword and ascending his pole. There seemed to be a slight slip on the floor, and a slight break in the young man’s concentration, but his act still astounded, if anyone had the fortitude to watch. Howard Stern said he “loved it,” and the real danger of Alexandr’s act was unlike anything before, Heidi Klum pronounced he could “win it all,” and Mel B called the performance “terrifying to watch.” If America was watching, they may want to see this young man from Moldova survive something even greater. The Struck Boyz did their moms and Staten Island proud with the swagger and tween swoon factor of their routine in white satin and jeans, jiggling a little bit of everything, but they didn’t dazzle the panel. In spite of their growing “huge fan base” as Ms. Klum noted, and being “naughty” in a good way, according to Mel B, Howard Stern found them “difficult to watch,” with their same basic routine, and Howie Mandel said they were in a “tough spot” against other talents. It’s hard to keep a passionate 13-year-old girl from voting, so the numbers will decide.
Brad Byers is a simple man from Idaho when he doesn’t decide to dare every convention of safety onstage, like putting his tongue in a fan, before laying atop a few 9 inch nails and being smashed by an ATV driven by his brother. There’s plenty of danger in Brad’s act, but he is not buff, like Alexandr, and lacks the flash in his manner. Even the panel insisted he put on his shirt before they summed up his act, which came down to good, but needing a good dose of showmanship. Mel B couldn’t help but ask, “Why?” about the whole thing! Kid the Wiz has personality plus, and he can pull off those dance moves while doing his hat tricks, but not always perfectly. He had fatal drops, and his production, too, seemed to overwhelming. His charisma and charm will get him a career, but not the America’s Got Talent title. Howard Stern already pointed out that sneaker companies are likely standing in line to sign this young man. The tenor trio, Forte, swept the night with another stirring performance, by singing “Somewhere (A Place for Us,” from West Side Story. Even with another replacement member and limited rehearsal time, this astounding trio “filled the room,” as Heidi Klum described, and Howie Mandel said they would be among those filling the Top 10. Howard Stern simply called them “quality, quality talent,” yet Mel B wasn’t taken, saying they were “over-the-top dramatic” and America would be torn. The decision for these guys won’t be too tough.
Impressionist comic, Angela Hoover has fun onstage, and it shows. She said her humor sites on Heidi Klum and Mel B this time, and delivered fun stuff that the lady judges liked, except they wanted even more mocking! Howard Stern dissed the “weak material,” and told Angela to keep practicing. Dave Shirley was another comic who wooed the panel with his big screens splitting his body, and breaking into some fresh material, but this time, Dave couldn’t get synced up with his screen images, and it got a little too “showgirly” to be funny. The panel all noticed the mismatch, and America likely did, too. Marty Brown had given one of the most moving auditions of Season 8, setting free his heartfelt and purely beautiful rendition of “Make You Feel My Love,” but that simple beauty and the power of that purity was lost in an overdone production of the poorly chosen Shania Twain song, “Looks Like We Made It,” with an unnecessary backing band. Brown admitted that he let his emotions choke him up in the bio package, but more than that, he left everyone yearning for the beauty of the first audition, asking “What happened?” and unable to deny that almost everything “went wrong” for the man from Kentucky who loves his wife and his daddy, yet couldn’t find the people’s love tonight. Will Marty find forgiveness? The Aquanuts work really hard at their seldom recognized art of water dancing, which so few can even attempt. They gave their best tonight, doing what almost no one can “even care” to do, as Howard Stern noted. Heidi Klum said that the ladies epitomized all that the show was about, and Mel B remarked that they were different among the talents. Howie Mandel, however, felt they were “not better” than their audition.
Nothing like a little fun to close the night, so Tone the Chiefrocca had to reprise their “B-Double O-TY” classic decked in gold and classic car for the big stage, and they won raves, despite their desire to only be a one-hit wonder! “You woke me up,” Howard Stern credited the duo, and Howie Mandel said the song should already be recorded. America’s verdict will be revealed in tomorrow’s vote tally. Tune in at 9 PM ET on NBC.