Only four acts will survive as the last dozen of the Top 48 perform for the audience's votes on "America's Got Talent."
Tuesday evening saw the last of the Top 48 finalist acts hit the stage in New Jersey as the fourth round of the "America's Got Talent" Quarterfinals got underway. There was something anticlimactic in the air, possibly brought on by the constant prompt that the show was so full of talent that America would have a difficult time voting the last four acts through to the Semifinals. Still, the one thing the fourth round did bring was talent...
The evening started with Dave "The Bullet" Smith, the human cannonball. The judges -- Howard Stern, Sharon Osbourne, and Howie -- all go outside to watch Super Dave (no, wait, that was a farcical daredevil act that used to appear on "The Tonight Show" and "The Late Show with David Letterman") make a parabolic arc through the air that topped 70 feet, flying at some 60 miles per hour. As planned, he lands in a net. Howard tells us it's more dangerous than it looks (like, if he missed the net?), but Sharon puts it into perspective, suggesting his next cannon-powered flight take place over flaming alligators.
All That is a clogging dance group that somehow get Judge Sharon thinking about the stripper movie "Magic Mike." Maybe it's the music: "Black Betty" by RamJam. She suggests the next time, the guys wear leather and no shirts. Howard says he don't think they'll make it through, but they are a well-disciplined troupe, so who knows?
Lounge act Ulysses is up next and he reveals he's gotten his "mojo" cut off. His unkempt hair has been shaved down to about an inch of gray. He doesn't like it and gets fitted for a wig, which only looks like a more symmetrical version of the unkempt stuff he got cut off. But a guy's mojo is his mojo... and Ulysses seems to have definitely lost his. He does an extremely karaoke version of Barry Manilow's "Bandstand Boogie," complete with dancers. Howard buzzes him within seconds and, although Judge Howie is a last-minute holdout, he, too, buzzes Ulysses for a third strike before it's over. Howie said the big guy tried to "Vegas up" his routine, while Howard uttered a crushing critique: "We have a rough economy, we have terrorism, and now we have this!"
Next up: Joe Castillo, sand artist. With some beautiful aboriginal music (wood flutes, drums, animal sounds) as backdrop, the artist pushes sand into shapes of a panda, tiger, and an elephant over a map of the world. He ends his 90 seconds with a tear falling from a giant eye. Howard loves him, his "important" message, but hates the beret. Sharon says Castillo's art moves her. Howie loves that he can tell the story of how humanity is destroying the planet in 90 seconds. When host Nick Cannon asks about the giant eye, Castillo explains that it's God's eye shedding a tear for the Earth and its denizens, because he entrusted man to oversee the planet -- something man has not done very well.
A 10-year-old Mariachi singer, Sebastien "El Charro de Oro," hits the stage next. He tells us in the run-up that he's just like other kids, but he likes to sing love songs. He performs "Besame Mucho" with an 11-piece Mariachi band and promises to sing love songs when he eventually falls in love. Sebastien's nerves appear to get the better of him and his voice catches and sounds weak in places. Although unfair to compare a 10-year-old with a legend, he's got a long way to go to reach the vocal depths of an Andrea Bocelli, whose version of this song is phenomenal. However, he stirs the crowd with a strong finish and long-held note. Host Nick Cannon is supportive, calling the performance "incredible." Sharon tells him he's a "special, special person" and the boy breaks into tears. Howie asks why he's crying and Sebastien tells him he's one step closer to helping his brother. Howie says he's "crossed the finish line" and says he's a "male, Mexican Jacki Evancho." (That was a stretch, given Sebastian's obvious vocal weaknesses.) Howard says he's terrific and who knew he'd like music that usually has him running out of restaurants. Sebastien may have won the cuteness contest when he told Cannon the song was for his "love," Sharon Osbourne. He threw down the gauntlet to Ozzy as well, telling "Mr. Osbourne" that he had indeed sung the song for his wife.
Eric Dittelman is a mind reader. And unlike so many magic acts, this guy has latched onto something intriguing. The judges love him and suggest he simply refer to himself as "Dittelman." In a play on Howie Mandel's old show, "Deal or No Deal," Dittelman gets Mandel to choose one of fifteen briefcases held by models and even after he allows Howie to change his original pick, Dittelman had previously predicted which briefcase Howie would choose. He gets a standing ovation. Judge Sharon said, "All of America will be talking about Dittelman tomorrow morning." How does he do it? Who knows? Howie calls him the "real deal" and notes that if he'd have done that four years ago on "Deal or No Deal," he'd have won a million dollars.
William Close turns the New Jersey theater into an "Earth Harp," a massive string arrangement anchored to the stage and, one imagines, to the ceiling. Performing The Who's "Love, Reigh O'er Me," Close plays strings that fade off into the distance as drummers pound on spinning drums and a vocalist sings at his side. The judges are ready to stop the contest, giving Close the second consecutive standing ovation. Cannon says the artist might have received the longest standing ovation in "America's Got Talent" history. Judge Howie says, "We're done. I think you've won this whole contest." Sharon says Close is "over and above anything" that she's seen on the stage. "Give him the million dollars," Howard says, adding that Close is "almost unbeatable." Howard then says that the measure of a good act is the willingness of someone to back up a critique with investment and he says that he would, and bet that his fellow judges, would invest in Close even if he didn't with "America's Got Talent." The judges nodded, raising their hands.
Now how do you follow that?
Unity In Motion has home-field advantage, being from New Jersey, and they don't disappoint. They are fluid, graceful, moving about the stage in synchronized patterns. They build what can only be described as a pyramid of arching legs and bodies that is simply beautiful. Judge Howard immediately tells them they are by far the best dance act on the show and should be voted through. Sharon says everything was "perfect." Howie says he doesn't think they're "spectacular enough," to which Howard interjected "Then let's bring Ulysses back." Howie invites America to vote, because Twitter, he says, is ablaze with posts that the winner has been found (an apparent allusion to Close's act).
The Austin duo of Eric & Olivia follows with Taio Cruz's "Dynamite." Olivia's voice is interesting, even hauntingly beautiful, but Sharon hugs the middle ground by saying America has a tough choice to make with all the talent that's been displayed. Howie thinks Eric & Olivia sound too much like a lounge act. Howard says he didn't feel an "emotional connection" and thinks Olivia was lost in the arrangement.
Dancer Lindsey Norton follows and does another gymnastics floor routine. It is very artistic and flowing, but also acrobatic and gymnastic -- and looks much like her other routines. Howie says he loves her and her routine reminds him of an Olympic floor exercise. (He's right.) Howard and Sharon openly campaign for the 17-year-old to get through, but Sharon nails it when she says Lindsey should be performing gymnastics at the Olympics.
Horse is up next. The only way to describe Horse is that he's a professional groin-kick acceptance artist (a.k.a. a "nutshot taker"). How this guy, who apparently got his routine from "America's Funniest Videos," "Tosh.0," and "Jackass" clips, got through to the Top 48 is beyond human ken. (And again we're wondering how someone like Goth opera singer Andrew de Leon got left behind.) Judge Howard says it's a "love it or hate it" act and says it's like his show. He added that he thought it was "hysterical" and noted the chanting crowd. Sharon called the routine " very entertaining." Howie said he should do a Christmas theme like the Nutcracker Suite. Before they leave the stage, Nick Cannon gives Horse a kick to his "dangly bits."
The last act was a dog act, Olate Dogs. A troupe of dogs and their tails-and-tophats trainers ran around the stage, jumping, spinning, doing backflips, and using various props to the sound of "Played-A-Live (The Bongo Song)" by Safri Duo. Highly touted by the judges, they are compared to this year's winner of "Britain's Got Talent," Ashleigh and Pudsey (who performed on the results show last week), except where there's only one dog in the "BGT" act, there's six in Olate Dogs. Cute, but is it enough to get to the Semifinals? The judges and the live audience given them a standing ovation. Sharon admits to never seeing a dog act like that before in her life. Howie agrees and says it reminds him of watching the "Ed Sullivan Show" as a kid. Howard says he loves them and confides that he lost his pet bulldog this week. He adds that he has no idea how to handicap the night's performances, there were so many great acts. But he says Olate Dogs deserve a place in the Semifinals.
With all twelve acts having performed, who has the best chance of getting through? Obviously, the acts that got standing ovations will most likely make it through. That was William Close and his Earth Harp, mind reader Eric Dittelman, and dog act Olate Dogs. Sebastien "El Charro de Oro" could be the fourth, considering Sharon Osbourne gave him a standing ovation and the audience loved him. But he could have some steep competition from dance troupe Unity In Motion, who were breathtaking on the floor. Although they might not make it, Joe Castillo's talent at story-painting with sand should be mentioned as being a highlight of the night, as was Eric & Olivia, despite what the judges might have said about their connection and arrangement.
Acts definitely not making it through are Ulysses, Dave "The Bullet" Smith, All That, Lindsey Norton, and Horse.
Because, ultimately, whether or not the acts go through is not up to the judges -- except for a partial say in the fourth act. The three Quarterfinals acts with the most votes are automatically sent through to the Semifinals. The two act placing fourth and fifth in total accrued number of votes will be decided on by the judges.
"America's Got Talent" returns with the Quarterfinals (Part 4) results on Wednesday, July 25, at 9:00 p.m. Besides finding out who gets to the Semifinals, there will be appearances by Cher Lloyd, finalist from Britain's seventh season of "X Factor," and the cast of "Once," the Broadway musical.
(photo credit: Bill Norton, Creative Commons)
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