After almost three months of taped shows, “America’s Got Talent” finally moves on to the live portion of the competition on Tuesday with the first of three quarterfinals. In this round the four judges — Simon Cowell, Julianne Hough, Howie Mandel and Gabrielle Union — lose control over who stays and goes as the viewing audience is given the power of the vote. This week, a dozen acts took to the stage to perform, but only seven will advance to the semifinals and continue on the path to the $1 million prize.
Three of these contenders for the season 14 championship got the coveted Golden Buzzer, which sent them straight through to the live shows: This trio of talent, who are all singers is led by Kodi Lee, who is both blind and autistic. The other two are kids who accompany themselves on guitar (Luke Islam and Sophie Pecora).
Also featured in tonight’s show is another kid who sings: 13-year-old Ansley Burns. In both her audition and judge cuts appearance, Simon made Ansley stop mid-performance and sing the rest of her songs a capella. But even that was not enough for her to make the initial cut. After a huge outcry from fans, she landed the lone Wild Card slot on quarterfinal 1.
Below, read our recap of the 12 acts in the order in which they were showcased on Tuesday’s live show, which is episode 11 of season 14. Who impressed you the most and who was the biggest disappointment? Be sure to sound off with your thoughts down in the comments section.
8:03 p.m. – First to take the stage tonight was the five young girls of GFORCE who have big dreams of becoming the next girl group in pop music. Like the Spice Girls before them, GFORCE is all about the girl power, a theme they really pushed tonight with their performance of an original song about “doing their own thing.” It was a stellar way to open the live shows, complete with full choreo and a bright stage set that they made the most of. The judges were high on their energy overall, but Simon wasn’t a fan of the songwriting and advised them to stick together as a group after the show because in a few years they’ll have a shot at making it. Luckily Gabrielle was on top of it and reminded everyone that Simon also advised them that they should write their own songs–so BAM! In your face, Simon!
8:14 p.m. – Movie fanatic and voice impression comic Greg Morton was up next with his latest showcase of film voice impersonations. This time he included references to The Lion King, Ace Ventura, Braveheart and Guardians of the Galaxy, among others. Gabrielle thought that he raised the bar for what he does and enjoyed that he took everyone back to their own childhood love of movies. Julianne concurred and Simon was impressed with how well he took ownership of the stage in a way that he hadn’t expected.
8:24 p.m. – Carmen Carter got her chance to sing for votes with a rendition of “Believer” by Imagine Dragons. It was a thoroughly theatrical performance that afforded her the chance to not only hit her signature big screaming notes, but also show some personality in the more quickly paced verses. Simon said he was hesitant about the song choice at the beginning, but was on board with it by the end. Gabrielle and Julianne were enthusiastically supportive, but Howie questioned whether her song choice was the best decision for this stage of the competition.
8:30 p.m. – Howie was the only judge that didn’t support the Emerald Belles moving on in the competition so tonight was their chance to prove him wrong. To do that, the high kicking dance squad kept the energy level high and managed to move as one body through a series of synchronized waves that showed just how in control they are as a single mind. Sure enough, Howie admitted that with the higher production value of the live shows the group won him over and he called it “spectacular.” The other judges were just as impressed by the performance, but I get the feeling that the performance played much better in-house than it did through the television.
8:40 p.m. – Fifteen year old singer songwriter Sophie Pecora was the next artist to take the stage, this being her first time since Brad Paisley hit his Golden Buzzer for her. Despite a slightly upbeat moment of rapping, her performance was very low energy tonight and she had a noticeable slip up at the end, likely due to nerves. That being said, the judges are all-in for Sophie and support her anti-bullying and teen angst lyrics so much that they urged the audiences to give her the votes to advance.
8:51 p.m. – One of the Messoudi Brothers suffered an injury during rehearsals, but still performed as part of the acrobatic trio tonight. Sadly, the performance included way too much downtime between tricks and so we really only saw them achieve three mind-boggling moves, all of which involved perfectly held handstands off of each other’s bodies. Of the judges, Simon was the only one to not join in the standing ovation. He didn’t think the act was as dangerous as it should be, but Julianne and Howie both disagreed.
9:01 p.m. – After an emotional package about why and who they sing for, military vets Voices of Service hit the stage for another show stopping display of harmonizing, this time backed by a full choir behind them. The judges have always loved this group, but tonight they were extra complimentary. Gabrielle even begged (literally) for people to vote for them! The group was still very emotional as they concluded their remarks after their performance. The passion! We love to see it!
9:12 p.m. – Ansley Burns was cut in the second round of the competition, but returned tonight as a wild card pick determined to perform so well from the state that Simon wouldn’t get to stop her mid-performance for a third time. As expected, she delivered the personality of a star and managed to exude the confidence we’ve seen from her in the past, even with the pressure of the live stage. Simon admitted that he didn’t love the song choice, but could still tell that she has a great voice and an amazing personality.
9:20 p.m. – Tonight Alex Dowis told a story of the universe through his unique live painting talent. Within the story he drew images of the dinosaurs and their extinction and then the rebirth of life on the planet with vegetation and apes, including their evolution into men. Gabrielle was visibly shook by the inspirational performance, but Simon said overall it felt like science museum art.
9:31 p.m. – Broadway superfan Luke Islam earned Julianne’s Golden Buzzer to earn his spot in the live shows. Tonight he lived his dream with a performance of “You Will Be Found” from Dear Evan Hansen, nailing every single note perfectly. The smile on his face when he finished said it all, but that didn’t stop the judges from saying how “undeniable” he was. Simon was most impressed by his control and poise for a twelve year old, in addition to him knowing exactly who he is and in what direction he wants to take his career.
9:41 p.m. – After Judge Cuts, one of the members of Bir Khalsa left the group, creating a situation where a new member joined in time to perform with them for these live shows. With everything on the line, including their lives (!), the group performed the daring acts of splitting a zucchini with a chainsaw while it was in the mouth of another member (while blindfolded!), smashing ice blocks with swords over the bodies of another and then their signature move of smashing watermelons lining their bodies with huge hammers. In Simon’s words the act was “fantastically crazy and fantastically dangerous.”
9:55 p.m. – Gabrielle’s Golden Buzzer act, Kodi Lee, was up next for his second performance of the season and to close out the night. Sat at the piano, he delivered an incredible rendition of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” that showed his range and depth as a performer. The in-house crowd loved him (chanting “Kodi! Kodi!”) and Gabrielle was overcome with emotion seeing her champion continue to impress audiences everywhere.
9:59 p.m. – Who was your favorite act of the night and which will you be voting for? Be sure to update your predictions before Wednesday’s results show!