Let the three-night Vegas extravaganza begin! We're in Sin City to whittle down more than 100 acts to the 48 that will compete once the live shows begin in Newark next week. Who will move on? Who will be sent home (Other than all the old singers/rappers and Horse the nut basher, that is)? Let's dive in (or blast out of a cannon) and find out!
Nick Cannon welcomes us to Las Vegas by standing on top of a precarious rock at the Grand Canyon. He's on the edge of a cliff, with no suggestion of a safety harness. I wonder if Mariah is okay with this? Must be fancy photography or something. Anyway, on to the acts!
The performers all meet each other and have some fun before they battle for a spot in the next round. They're partying on the strip, hanging by the pool and gambling. But then, it's down to business. Judges Howard Stern, Sharon Osbourne and Howie Mandel gather the contestants in a hotel lobby, where they inform them some difficult decisions have already been made. They've divided the acts into two groups: The Favorites (who they feel are the ones going through to the live shows) and the Standbys, who have to work harder for a spot. The Favorites will perform first, and the Standbys will then have a shot at any remaining spots in the top 48. Some acts will not be put in either group, meaning no performance and a ticket home. Howard urges the performing acts the impress the judges, or be sent home immediately. Yeah, I think they get that.
Here are some notable entries from each group.
Judges' Favorites: Cross-dressing singer All Beer Patty, controversial singer Tim Poe (he's been getting hammered in the media over his apparent lies, so it'll be interesting to see how he performs under the pressure), comedian Tom Cotter, nut cruncher Horse, goth opera singer Andrew De Leon (who has apparently never been on a plane before), the 8-year-old Mariachi kid and the Puerto Rican dance troupe 787 Crew.
Stand-Bys: Most of the cirque-type acrobatic acts, reptile hunter Serengeti Steve, The Emily Anne Band and 22-year-old dancer Stepz.
Neither List: The dog flipping act that Sharon loved, the Bandbaz Brothers (strongman acrobats who are actually uncle and nephew), music teacher William Gross (I doubt his actual talent show act is being a teacher ... yup, he played a giant harp), the guy who got shot out of the cannon, security officer/singer big Charlie C and all-girl band Ivy Rose. They show a member of the crew or a producer telling the flying dog act people that they won't be performing "this week," which leads me to believe they've got some sort of wild card thing saved up for these people.
Looks like we won't have to wait long to find out. The judges gather the groups on stage (and apparently the list above is ALL the people not on either list, since they are the only six acts on the stage) and separate the Bandbaz Brothers, Charlie C and Ivy Rose from the rest. Those three acts are going home. The other three (flipping dogs, music teacher and cannon guy) are all going through to the live shows automatically, without performing again. Howard says we'll see them in New York, even though the live shows are in Newark.
With 45 spots left, we're headed outside to view the Favorites acts in the "danger" category. First up is stunt team All Wheel Sports, with their dancing and flying girls, bike and scooter stunts and trampoline acrobatics. Howard things their act is too busy, doing too much.
The American BMX Stunt Team thinks All Wheel Sports is full of filler, so they're going to raise the bar a notch. Everything is going according to plan, until one cyclist eats it on the ramp. Did they do enough to get through to New York (Newark)? With this many acts, you gotta figure a mistake like that means they're out.
The rifle drill team New Guard America tosses bayoneted guns around the stage, while 17-year-old balance man Cristin Sandu stands on top of a board placed on six large pipes. Sharon is so nervous she can barely watch. It seems crazy to say, but I think people would actually pay money to watch this dude just stand on top of stuff.
Crossbow artist Ben Blaque and his hottie assistant are the last act we're seeing in this category, and man, these two are crazy. They missed a shot in rehearsal, but they're on point now. He shoots a balloon out of her mouth, slices a piece of newspaper in half (thin ways) and then, blindfolded and shooting backwards over his shoulder, pops a balloon about a foot over the assistant's head. Howie and Sharon are disappointed they only did one new trick, but Howard points out that new trick involved Ben shooting backwards while blindfolded.
A Few False Starts
Next up is the female singing category, and leading off is 21-year-old Mary Joyner (daughter Olympic gold medalists Florence Griffith-Joyner and Al Joyner). It's easy to tell she's nervous, and she doesn't hit all her notes. Howard tells Sharon and Howie that she blew it, and her tears show she knows it.
Artist/designer Roxy Doll also has a tough time and appears to quit on herself, as do Brianna Price and Cecilia Detwiler (though I thought she was head and shoulders above the other three). Not a good night for the singers, and Howard questions if any of them even bothered to practice.
Luna, a 27-year-old hippie who works at a sandwich shop and performed Jewel while wearing socks and sandals in her audition, takes the stage. She is trying to keep her anxiety from getting to her this time, especially because Howie warned her that it could hold her back. Instead, she stops singing after a few bars and apologizes. When she starts again, she messes up the chords and screeches the rest of the song. Nick sums it up with an "ouch." The judges send her home immediately. Poor girl. Now THAT is how you blow it, Mary Joyner.
After watching all that, a very nervous 25-year-old Nikki Jensen has to perform. She left a promising career in journalism in Europe somewhere to chase her dreams in America, but let's be real, Nikki. That career will still be there if you end up sucking. So let's cool it on the dramatic aspects of you "leaving it behind" to be a sales associate/singer.
Thankfully, she and her guitar do justice to the final spot in the category. Her smooth and unique voice stands out enough that she's in good shape moving forward. But you have to wonder if all the other bad performers made her look better or worse? By comparison, she was amazing. But with the bar set that low, does her good voice just appear to be mediocre? That will be up to the judges.
Dancing up a Storm, But It's Just a Drizzle
The next category is dance groups. They all looked good as individual acts, but what will it take to stand out when you just show dance group after dance group?
Funk Beyond Control is up first, and they're all dressed like cats. Cats dancing to "Get Your Freak On," cause that's what cats do (at least if Broadway has taught me anything). They're in unison, but they don't do anything particularly noticeable. If they didn't have all that body paint, I probably wouldn't even remember them?
Clogging group All That fares better, but they were nervous watching the other acts warm up, and I think it showed a bit in their energy. They just didn't look the part in their faces.
What about the Loyalty Dance Team? They have full-time jobs and practice at night. They're just regular people, but not once they start dancing. They're energy is better and they have more flips, but they're just not wowing me here. Plus, they may have missed one of their tricks. The judges don't think it was anything different.
The top competition in the category is clearly is the 787 Crew (Puerto Rican pride!). The energy and stunts are well above the other acts, but the YouTube clip of the show will be when the one flipping guy smashes the other guy in the face. He goes down, but gets up and keeps going with the performance. I think the show editors added some sound effects to play up the collision. The mistake might cost them, but if they don't make it, there might not be any dance groups moving on. Howard agrees with me, but Howie thinks it might be a death blow (Not literally. The guy is fine) to the act.
What Happens in Vegas (Hopefully) Stays in Vegas
Novelty acts are up next, with Horse and his nutshot groupies literally kicking things off. Everyone has been wondering how far they can crotch shots, and they're doing their best not to disappoint. Horse drags out his three-man posse on a cart fastened to his junk, and then his friends hit him with a bowling ball, run him (it?) over with a bike tire and blast him with a blowtorch mid-kick. This is oddly entertaining, and even though I didn't like it after the audition, I'm rather interested to see what these guys can bang out in the future. And for bonus points, Horse does a back flip. After getting hit in the nuts. And burning his flesh with fire. Howard wants him in his underwear more, and Howie actually believes he could win.
All Beef Patty belts out some Carrie Underwood, performance artist Joe Castillo uses sand and light to tell us a spectacular story that we don't really get to see, comedian and ventriloquist Todd Oliver straps a fake jaw to his pooch Irving and makes us laugh (a little, but the use of the live dog is cute) and the Light Wire Theater brings dinosaurs, dragons and flowers to light in the dark.
Last up is the Aurora Light Painters, who definitely step up their unique act from their audition. But the judges think it's a great idea that hasn't been perfected yet. Either way, hats off to the novelty acts. They saved what has been a pretty underwhelming set of performances from the so-called Favorites.
It Ain't Over 'Til the Fat Man Sings
We're closing out first night in Vegas with the classical singers category, which consists of goth opera singer Andrew De Leon, Simply Sergio and Luiz Meneghin. They're all nervous, and Sergio is sick. His audition started with him getting Xs from the judges, before he belted out his real voice and wowed everyone. Unfortunately for him, he just doesn't have it tonight. He even forgets the words and hums, and then insists the humming was part of the song. Howard doesn't buy it.
Luiz is up next, after a magnificent audition. Since then, though, the bank foreclosed on his house and he's had a tough time. He says his future depends on this, and he is moderately solid if not underwhelming. He apologizes and says he could've done better. It's up in the air if he'll get that chance.
Andrew De Leon gets the final performance of the show, and I'm interested to see if he can follow up on his heartwarming audition. He's a fan favorite, and he starts strong before missing a note and giving up. He stops midway through, and the judges can only shake their heads while the music plays out. They debate the plusses of his individuality and likeability versus the minus of his actual performance. They say they'll have to decide, and then the show abruptly ends.
Alrighty then. Definitely an odd way to end the first Vegas show, but there were some standouts in a generally bleh group of acts.
I think balancing act Cristin Sandu, singer Nikki Jensen, dance group 787 Crew and novelty acts Horse, Aurora Light Painters and Light Wire Theater are the only locks so far. I give a likely nod to the crossbow guy and Andrew De Leon as well. After that, it's all up in the air for me.
What did you think? Did any other acts stand out for you? What did you think of those chosen as the Favorites? With 45 spots to go, who else will sneak in?
Join us tomorrow for night 2 of Vegas Week. With nerves getting to so many acts, the door is definitely open for many of the Standbys.