Truly great performance nights — I remember one or two from the quarterfinal round — are fun to watch but painful to review, the knowledge that only some of the acts will advance forcing you to wonder why the producers didn’t fan out the talent a little more. Then there are nights like Tuesday, where the distinct shortage of memorable acts makes deciding who will go on all the more easy. There isn’t much to debate: Hairo Torres, Barbara Padilla, Recycled Percussion, and EriAm will (and should, by last night’s standards) advance. Led by Hairo, they at least distinguished themselves from a largely forgettable lineup. Up for consideration? Lawrence Beamen and FootworKINGz, two front-runners who last night lost their footing a little bit. Everyone else, well…
We’ll start with the less stellar acts. After being spared in the quarterfinals, pianist Jeffrey Ou came back in full Mozart regalia to perform an uptempo version of Hungarian Rhapsody. He played fast, as was his gimmick when selected from the audition round, but maybe too fast — he missed a number of notes and seemed to be almost tripping over himself to keep up. The lighting system keyed in to his piano didn’t add much, either, just sort of…there and, like the piano playing, never really taking off. Erik and Rickie had similar issues with their dance to “Beat It,” a poor song choice for the less than speedy dancing the two were doing. They won’t advance, but at least they won’t have to hear David call them “Erika and Rickie” anymore. Don’t they have notecards?
Mario & Jenny proved that they can do everything…but they can’t do everything well, which includes tap dancing and drumming. Like FootworKINGz later on, I think these two have a lot of ability — for God’s sake, Mario is a SEVENTH GENERATION performer — but that doesn’t mean much if it’s not properly harnessed. I would love to see them return next week and really tap into the danger that defined them so well in the earlier rounds. Drew Stevyns was Drew Stevyns, playing “Never Gonna Dance Again” with the same drive and enthusiasm we saw in last week’s “How to Save a Life.” He’s likable, but his vocals could use some work. A dark horse for Top Ten.
Already pondering their next performance are EriAm, Recycled Percussion, Barbara Padilla, and Hairo Torres, all of whom will no doubt be moving on to the finals. The first two acts, while very good, should be thankful they didn’t find themselves performing last week (they might not be sitting so pretty); the latter two, especially Barbara, have been front-runners almost from the start and did nothing last night to disprove that standing. The one to really watch, though, is Hairo — in the best performance of the night, he brought wild energy to a break-dancing routine that kept getting better and better. Combining the spectacle needed for a Vegas routine with a sense of fun we don’t get from a lot of other acts, he’s a true original. It would be a sin if he were sent home.
Finally, Lawrence Beamen and FootworKINGz. Both much praised in the past; both a little lost last night trying to tackle new and different routines. Beamen sang Alicia Keys’ “Fallin'” with his own unique spin, a gamble that never quite paid off. His vocal acrobatics were impressive, but often called attentions to themselves in a way that distracted from the song. The tough Chicago dancers opted for a routine inspired by Power Rangers, possibly the least tough show ever, and struggled to marry the theme with their ever-impressive footwork. In a moment of clarity, David told the guys he “just wants to see them dance.” Amen.
As though it weren’t easy to predict after last week’s judges’ (in)decision (which was probably planned from the start), tonight’s second and last semifinal results will see FIVE acts through to the final round and not four, as originally expected. (Curveballs at every corner!) With that in mind, who are your picks to finish out the Top Ten? Do we need more dancers? More singers? Or more…something else? Light up the comments section with your decisions.