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'America's Got Talent' recap: Xs and 'Oh!'s

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Our second performance night of the quarterfinals was a bit more daring than what we saw last week. Perhaps emboldened by the first round’s acts, several contestants delivered polarizing routines, many of which played directly to Piers’ desire to “be more liberal with his buzzer”…and made our own voting decisions that much easier to narrow down. In the interest of brevity — we’ve got a results show coming up tonight, after all — we’re going to quickly run down the acts in descending order of quality. Or what I felt was the order. As usual, I am probably wrong.

Advance, please!

The night got off to a great start with performances by the Fab Five and Charles DeWayne, two acts given plenty of air time in the audition rounds who tonight proved they deserved the spotlight. Up first were the five tap-dancing sisters from Utah, who after holding cyber-rehearsals (how 21st century!) managed to pull off another impressive routine. While the fire theme may have been slightly distracting and a little off-note, given their act’s focus on precision and careful choreography over speed and heat, their footwork was great. “Brilliant,” said Sharon. “I’m gonna set my house on fire; will you put it out?” asked The Hoff. Charles likewise brought the same confidence and charm to his second performance (a rendition of “Just the Two of Us”) that he did in the audition round. Not sarcastically, Piers noted that the kid may have what it takes to become a major star.

Several acts later we were treated to Paradizo Dance, a husband-wife dance/gymnastics team whose equal parts strength and grace created one of the most stunning performances of the night. Unevenly matched in physicality — he’s over 6 feet, 200+ pounds; she’s at most 5’4″ and 120 — they nevertheless managed to spin, lift, twirl, and otherwise use each other’s bodies in remarkable ways. And there’s a love story, to boot! These two are Top 20 shoo-ins.

Rounding out the top performances of the evening were SQ Entertainment, Beale Street Flippers, and Voices of Glory. The first two acts were brought back from elimination as wild-cards, given second chances to show the judges something they may have missed in their auditions. SQ offered a frantic, energetic dance routine that, while not as tight as it could have been, nevertheless showed a great deal of creativity and drive. Said Piers, “I wasn’t happy about the decision to bring you back…but you’ve proven me wrong tonight.” The Beale Street Flippers did what they do best — flipping — and with some very impressive moments. While Piers felt the act was ultimately a bit boring, all three judges agreed they have a lot of potential. Is that enough to keep them in the competition?

Voices of Glory, like other kid acts, presents something of a complicated case. They’re genuinely sweet, sure, and impossible not to “like” in the sense that there’s nothing offensive about them…but should that be enough to advance? The talent is there (especially in the group’s little sister), but tonight’s performance was intermittently shaky. When VOG advances — and they will — I hope they take the opportunity to improve their cohesion.

Wasn’t feeling it, dawg

I don’t know much about tenoring — or Texas for that matter — but I agreed with Piers when he called the Texas Tenors‘ rendition of “Proud to be an American” one of the “cheesiest things he’s ever seen.” Really, guys? We get enough American flags on this show already before the performances even begin.

Impersonation is one of the trickier acts to effectively nail down, so I give Pete Peterkin all the credit in the world for even bringing it out on stage…but one or two impersonations, however on-target, are not enough to sustain an act. Especially when they’re so confusing! Pete came out as Obama, then segued into Obama doing an impression of Jamie Foxx in the role of Ray Charles. An interesting gimmick, and very Tropic Thunder of him, but one ultimately lost on the judges (and me).

We have some lovely parting gifts!

I never understood why Carol Loo was invited to the quarterfinals, and it seemed tonight the judges finally asked the same question when the dancing cashier descended from the rafters gyrating like crazy and launched into an act that can only be described as “uncomfortable.” Points for enthusiasm (“I identify with my soul’s age, which is ageless,” she said afterwards), but none for execution.

Tony Hoard & Rory came back for more of the same frisbee tricks they performed in their audition, and were summarily exxed by Piers Morgan. Cute act, but repetitive. The same could be said for Eleisha Miller, trying to overcome her lack of singing or musical talent with boundless enthusiasm. It worked on the judges the first time, but won’t be enough to see her through to the quarterfinals.

And finally Alizma, three Scandinavian violin-playing singers whose decision to sing more and keep the violins largely un-played netted them three x’s from the judges. The act was so bad, Sharon was the first to buzz in! “Why are we doing the stripper moves?” she asked. The girls said that Vegas acts need sexiness. “We love sexy!” Even the Hoff, usually so swayed by that word, was unimpressed.

What about you, guys? Are we all on the same page here, or do we agree to disagree? We’ll find out later what America, COLLECTIVELY, feels is the proper order, but for now all we have is our humble comments section. Write away!

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