Caption: William Close performs with his Earth Harp at Momai. Credit to phfx
We had a blackout in my area this past Tuesday, so I had to watch the last quarterfinal of America's Got Talent elsewhere. I didn't DVR it, so I can't give detailed recap, but I do have some opinions, as always!
First of all, I agree with Howard Stern; the groupings for the quarterfinals were downright irresponsible on the part of the producers. This was probably the single most difficult week in the history of America's Got Talent, and a lot of great people deserved a fairer shot than this. I know that only act can win - and I hope with fervent desire that it's William Close and that stunning harp of his - but other acts deserved the prestige of getting a little bit farther and having just one more national performance to help solidify their careers. There are several cases in which people who lost this week were vastly better acts than something similare that slid through during the easy weeks, and it's very frustrating.
I am not at all surprised that David "The Bullet" Smith did not go forward. If you've seen one shot out of a cannon, you've pretty much seen them all. I agree that his act is dangerous, but I don't think it's a million dollar act and I think it would be very hard to incorporate it into a Las Vegas show - even though I know he would not be the only person in that show.
I am surprised that All That made it to the Judge's Choice Round. In a show that included the amazing Unity in Motion and Lindsey Norton, I thought that All That was not... All That. They are a very entertaining dance troupe. If they were performing in a mall or a festival I'd definitely stop and watch. I do not think I'd pay more than about ten bucks to see them live. It irritates me that Sharon has already declared them to be in the Wild Card Round, because I think there are others who lost who deserve it more.
I feel really bad for Ulysses. Underneath the bad hair and the cheesy ideas lurks a man with a really gorgeous, rich voice. However, this was always a trite, silly novelty act and I think he got his feelings really unnecessarily hurt this week. They were harder on him than they were on Big Barry, and that's just wrong. As far as I can tell, his mistake lay in attempting to do what everybody keeps screaming at these contestants to do. He tried to step it up. He tried to go big. He tried to take it to the next level, as these judges and producers demand. He got raked over the coals for that. He should never have gotten past the Vegas round in the first place; they do these people a great disservice by setting them up to fail miserably.
And then we have... Joe Castillo. I know Joe did not invent sand art, but I've never seen it done at this level before. I think he's going to give David Garibaldi a run for his money, because he tells stories in his fluid art in a way that David can't. He has learned how to use his medium as a method for storytelling and teaching, and he's beautiful to watch. I don't know if he's a million dollar act, but the finalists go on tour. He is one of the people I'd buy a ticket to see. I'm thrilled that he got through.
Sebastien "El Charro De Oro" broke my heart this week. I think whoever arranges the music chose the wrong song for him. He's too young to have the life experiences necessary to sell "Besame Mucho", and I think he does better with more lively, peppy songs. He certainly had some pitch problems, which both saddened and surprised me, but he's got loads of talent. He's the best male singer to make it to this stage of the competition by a bundle... but he's not going on. Tim Hockenberry went on. Edon went on, for crying out loud. Sebastian sings rings around both of them, and he's four years younger than Edon, but they are in and Sebastien is out. Sebastien is one of the people I will point to as being a casualty of the producer's stupidity in stacking the deck the way they did. The saddest moment of the week - when Sebastien was called onstage with William Close and his Earth Harp, Sebastien knew it was all over for him, and you could see it on his face as Nick prepared to make the announcement. I was crushed for him.
Eric Dittleman - I really like Dittleman, and I usually enjoy his act. He's very clever, and he had a great strategy here that really paid off for him: suck up to the judges. Last round, he sucked up to Sharon with a generic trick that could work for any woman. This round, he designed a trick just to please Howie, based on Howie's old game show. The only drawback; I've figured out how he did this trick. Look for Dittleman to play to Howard Stern in the semis.
William Close - This Earth Harp is the most amazing act I've ever seen on America's Got Talent. Barring a severe mishap, he's going to be in the finals, and if he loses to Tim Hockenberry I'm going to be really disappointed. He filled that auditorium with music of haunting beauty, and if he makes their tour I will absolutely pay to hear him do this live. I suspect the television does not begin to do him justice.
Unity in Motion is the best dance act this season. They've got everything - ballet, gymnastics, contortion, - they are amazing. I would pay to see a show that includes them. Would somebody please explain to me why there's room in the semis for Turf, and even for The Untouchables, but not for these girls? Why? Because they got stuck in a quarterfinals with Joe Castillo, William Close, and those darned dogs. The Untouchables did not have comparable talent in their heat, and Turf was up against junk in his. The producers blew it for these girls, and I'm pretty annoyed.
Eric and Olivia - My heart burns orange for the University of Texas, and I was rooting for this duo going into this round, so their lackluster performance is disappointing at best. I don't have any real connection to "Dynamite." I think she sang well, but in a week where the Sebastien and Unity in Motion could not get through, this certainly was not going to cut it.
Lindsey Norton - The bad news is that ballet dancer/gymnast Lindsey Norton is out of a competition as a solo dancer while Turf gets to stay. I disagree with this situation - intensely. The good news is that you can pretty much catch most of her act done by scores of equally talented girls from all over the world performing in London beginning on July 29. (NBC likes it when people mention the London Olympics.) Lindsey basically does a great floor exercise. She's got some amazing tricks, and I think we've probably seen them all now.
What can I say about a man called Horse? He... um.... took it to the next level. This was actually an act. He turned his odd little stunt into a genuine comedy act featuring bad guys, characters, even a heroic come-from-behind victory. I didn't hate every single instant of Horse's act this week, and I've got to hand it to him. He did absolutely everything with this that he could. He was my son's favorite act. I am certainly glad he's gone.
And finally.... the Olate Dogs. You know how you can tell that the producers want to make absolutely sure that an OK act moves on? You make them the last act of the night, instead of the Earth Harp. Yes, these dogs are great. I don't know that I'd spend a huge amount of money to see them, but they were lots of fun to watch for ninety seconds, and they made Ashleigh and Pudsey look really limited by comparison. This was my daughter's favorite act.
So, after the best night ever on America's Got Talent, I am left with the unfortunate feeling that we've lost several wonderful acts that would have kicked some major booty in other weeks and brought us a much more satisfying semifinal round. I have to wonder if this is a strategy on the part of the producers, and if so... what are they thinking?