America's Got Talent had its largest numbers of audition hopefuls ever in Season 7, and the hype was at fever pitch with Howard Stern taking his place on the panel. This week's preamble to the live performances spoke to the power of the competition "to change people's lives" as Sharon Osbourne honestly phrased it, and that was evidenced by Ron Christopher Porter, who auditioned in St. Louis, and couldn't capture panel approval for his made-for-movies voice, but still lived a dream by hanging out with Nick Cannon. Now, he has a gig performing in California and an agent, and announced the lead into the live segment, and he never had the chance to be a finalist. Fun as it may be to be privy to the bickering and the "blackhead bypass" performed on Howie Mandel's ear by his co-panelists, the final say stays with the American public from here out, and who among the 12 will they keep talking about?
Tampa's Distinguished Men of Brass had the tough spot of being first, and they were as sharp-steeping as ever with their big instruments beating to Americana and a Beyoncé beat, but something gets lost seeing these men on a small screen, and the judges' too, reminded that television sound may not be doing them any favors. If heart and humility count for anything, though, these men have earned another hearing, because like Sharon Osbourne, the live audience "loved it." The deafening New York audience gave audible approval for 14-year-old, Edon, who was sensational yet again, turning "Bulletproof" into a beautiful ballad, in note-to-note perfection. Howie Mandel praised Edon gave pride to his heritage along with his music, and Howard Stern uncharacteristically lauded the young artist for being "humble" as he continues to nail performances. Jarrett and Raja won their way through in Vegas with a stunner of an act, producing a full orchestra. Their act this time was a production, too, but it came off too campy—"campy as Christmas," in fact, was how Sharon Osbourne phrased it, with their "Singing in the Rain" routine, predictably with materializing showgirls. Howie Mandel liked it, but mixed reviews would best sum up their night. Lil Starr was cute as ever in her sequined pink big glasses and big smile, and she punched up her tap routine with a splash of rap. The crowd clapped along in support, but Howard Stern played the heavy with the little 6-year-old, saying she wasn't ready for a big stage yet. Howie Mandel and Sharon Osbourne agree that Lil Starr has a big future of opportunities awaiting.
Todd Oliver's dogs deliver every time, being so darn cute. Irving, the Boston Terrier, was joined by Terrier mix, Lucy, this time. They were both darling doing a bit of flirting with Sharon, asking "Who's your doggy?" but they couldn't overcome the dated material, and the moving jaws weren't as seamless as prior nights, either. Is America ready for foulmouthed dogs doing the same thing as a treddy bear in a hit movie, as Howard Stern recommends? America will decide if the canines are cute enough to outdo their owner for another chance. After seeing the American BMX Stunt Team in Vegas, it's easy to understand how the stage stagnates some of their incredible wheeled moves indoors, but these boys had the crowd and the judges ramped up to raves, Howie Mandel praising that the indoor staging made theirs an even "better show," as Sharon said she "bows down" to their ability. Nikki Jensen opted to sing sans guitar to Coldplay for her live moment, and she stood virtually motionless through her entire 90 seconds. Her Natalie Merchant-Alanis Morissette vocal mix is very pleasing, as are her stunning looks, but audience connection is key, and she seems to have lost that combination. The Scott Brothers are synced up sensations, and their super timing mastered in 32 years of dancing together compensates for would be missing links from most street performers. Their sharp dressed delivery will be one viewed on repeat before the vote.
Michael Nejad's creativity is commendable, but his homemade instruments were dreadful on the ears, and he was X'ed for the evening. 787 Crew still created magic on the dance floor and got ovations from the audience, but the panel was not as pleased with these hard-working Puerto Rican boys as in prior performances, save Sharon, who said they still "stand alone" among the dance acts. Their look was great, but their daring was slightly diminished. Shanice and Maurice Hayes were dazzling in midnight blue dress, and the dad and daughter defined harmony in heavenly ways with their duet, with dad really carrying his tune, while letting his star daughter shine. The crowd couldn't wait to love them, and their ovation was thunderous. Howie Mandel called the moment "huge," while Howard Stern couldn't wait to rub in his proclamation of being right. David Garibaldi and His CMYK's left the audience and the panel in rousing ovation as they dazzled with dripping paintbrushes to the song, "Paint it Black," leaving a dramatic image of Mick Jagger in their wake, and reminding everyone that canvas can capture rock 'n roll, too. The panel predicted a certain sweep in the votes for these flashy portrait creators. There are other acts that paint to music, but not with the same swagger!
The beauty of America's Got Talent is that none of the night's most memorable performances could be found on any other network talent competition, much less give America the favor of their artistry.
Twelve performed, but only four will see the next stage. Follow your favorites tomorrow!