Tensions were tighter than the ringlets in Howard Stern's hair on America's Got Talent, heading into a second round of performances at the Venetian's Palazzo stage in Las Vegas. The silence created only by the panel's pondering was painful enough, but the critiques became more cutting, too. Fittingly, Howard Stern was the oft-heard messenger of farewell for some very familiar names over the competition's past few weeks, while a select few got another welcome to New York.
Magic acts were up first for the night, and mind reading must qualify. Eric Dittelman did another incredible number in his comic mind reading on Sharon Osbourne for his future potential, asking her to write the letters of the name of her first crush, and sealing them away in a tiny box, but still deciphering the name "Robin," which Mrs. O confessed was a "made up" persona, proving even more the perfection of this guy's gig. Taylor Reed did another grab for big magic, producing a helicopter from thin air, but his magic couldn't make him staying close contention. Justin Rivera did an amazing bit with body parts and boxes, but his verdict is in limbo. Spencer Horsman had stunning machinery in St. Louis, but Howard Stern wasn't sure it was truly death-defying, so this time, the young escape artist chained himself at numerous appendages, and put himself into a clear box of water with nary an inch of wiggle room. He dropped his key with 21 seconds or so remaining, and still freed himself, winning freedom to the New York stage, too.
The vocal groups didn't fall prey to the same singer's affliction of nerves that struck the ladies on the first night, and strictly platonic partners Eric and Olivia still had magic enough to please the panel, but now the pressure seemed on to push the beauty with a beautiful voice, Olivia, on alone sans Eric, but the pair pulled through as partners, proving their song, "What a Wonderful World." St. Louis' daughter and dad duo of Maurice and Shanice sang their way through, too, on the strength of the stellar vocals of Shanice, despite a slip up by dad. No one doubts that the dad and daughter duo of Jorge and Alexa from Los Angeles are any less cute, but their performance this time bet a bit too much on cuteness, and the song was a bit much for little Alexa, so she can look forward to a future after some practice at home, still being as "adorable" as Howie Mandel dubbed her.
The comedians were one of the strongest groups of the night, and the guys felt the heat of the hot lights and the heaviness of knowing that a comic never goes too far on the final stages of the show. Jacob Williams still had good material, but the nerves cut his sharpness in delivery that was such a part of his rapid-fire shtick before Vegas. Sammy Obeid and Dave Burleigh brought chuckles, too, but 48-year-old, road-tested Tom Cotter was the man who took the night of the group. Frank Roche froze in his act that was made more icy with the absence of his impressions, and he was immediately dismissed for departure by a scathing Howard Stern. Kellen Erskine was another who couldn't survive the final cuts.
The kids category sure captured the panel again, and mariachi marvel Sabastien and El Charro del Oro stole the show and secured another stop in New York. Isaac Brown begged for approval from the panel, like he had in St. Louis, but the competition was too stiff for the six-year-old this time. The Untouchables were unstoppable again, and America will see more of these dancing tweens. Scarf acrobat Amazing Elizabeth is still amazing, but has to wait for another audition in another year of America's Got Talent. Edon is the 14-year-old wonder singer that America didn't hear much of in Austin but will be begging to hear more of as he sings and plays "like a young Billy Joel" as Sharon Osbourne raves.
The male singers had strong contenders, and one shameless fraud in the form of Tim Poe, but the deceitful soldier's ride ended in Las Vegas, while his cohorts moved on, including TV theme show singer Ulysses, a dynamite Daniel, Jake Wesley Rogers, and Tim Hockenberry, who inspired the panel with his simple, soulful take on "You are So Beautiful," and is bound for brighter days.
The last moments of the show parted company with some other talents who took the judges' and America's hearts, including singers Mary Joyner and Andrew De Leon, and incredible dance talents, along with the All-America rifle team. Sadly, stardom can come down to a single audition, but there is always a second chance, another stage, and another season, as long as the fire and heart remain.