We’re just two weeks away from the start of the finals of season 14 of “America’s Got Talent.” Twenty-two acts have made it through the gruelling live quarterfinals and are vying for the 10 spots in the two-night final that starts on September 17. Eleven of these hopefuls are performing on the first semifinal on September 3.
As with the quarterfinals, the four judges are no longer solely in charge during the semifinals. Three of the five acts that make it through will do so based on the votes of viewers. The fourth will win the Dunkin’ Save, a sudden death showdown for audience votes on the result show. And the fifth will be the judges’ choice.
Three of the acts on Tuesday’s show had earned the coveted Golden Buzzer at their auditions, which allowed them to go straight through to the live shows. They are: Tyler Butler-Figueroa, an 11-year-old violinist who made sour Simon Cowell smile; Kodi Lee, a blind autistic singer who made Gabrielle Union cry for joy; and Light Balance Kids who lit up guest judge Ellie Kemper.
Below, read our recap of how they and the other eight acts did on Tuesday’s live show, which is episode 18 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. – For the first time in semifinals history, the show brought out a fifth judge as a guest for the performance show. Tonight Sean Hayes from “Will & Grace” joined the dais to help critique tonight’s acts.
8:04 p.m. – The first performance of the night came from Ndlovu Youth Choir. with their take on the new song “Higher Love” by Whitney Houston and Kygo. The song started out with a stunning opening by one female vocalist and then transitioned into a full chorus featuring all the voices in perfect unison. The group also maintained their unique African perspective in music, costumes and choreography, but executed it all so much better tonight than ever before. Simon called the performance in a “way higher league” than anything they’ve done so far as well as calling them one of the nicest acts in the competition. And in his first critique, Sean said they’re amazing and doesn’t see how they won’t make the final.
8:15 p.m. – Ansley Burns has had an atypical journey this season — being stopped twice by Simon mid-performance and then being eliminated in Judges’ Cuts, added as a wild card for the Quarterfinals and having to earn the Dunkin’ Save to make the Semifinals. Tonight she took the stage with a Carrie Underwood cover with what turned out to be a pretty shaky performance, including a very obvious flub in the lyrics. Julianne thought that the song overpowered her abilities and Gabrielle referred to her as “America’s underdog” and hopes that they’ll come out for her in the votes.
8:26 p.m. – A few weeks ago, prior to the QFs, one of the Messoudi Brothers broke his foot, but it didn’t set them back. Tonight they attempted the trick that they broke his foot on, challenging themselves to push through their most dangerous acts. They began the performance by incorporating Julianne into a very simple trick and then transitioned into more complex lifts directly in front of the judges’ table. They finished by making a three man balancing tower where all three basically hugged each other in a weird handstand flower-like thing that raised up in the air. The judges were all on board with the act, but Simon obviously took credit for inspiring them to raise the bar and do something more dangerous this time around.
8:38 p.m. – For tonight’s performance Tyler Butler-Figueroa began in the audience to make his way to stage for an energetic rendition of Ariana Grande’s “Break Free” on his violin. The judges were enthusiastic about his performance and reiterated how great his story is, but all agreed that tonight’s audition was a perfect fit for him and a smart choice.
8:48 p.m. – For Greg Morton‘s series of voices tonight he played Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, a mosquito, Scooby-Doo and Shaggy and characters from The Jetsons as well as The Simpsons. To me it seemed like a step down for him and the energy from the audience seemed a little down as well. Simon apologized to Greg for not liking it tonight either, saying that it was “all over the place,” but the rest of the panel was still on board with his talent and found it entertaining.
9:00 p.m. – One of the favorites to win this season, Kodi Lee, was up next to play the piano and sing for us once again. Tonight he chose Calum Scott’s “You Are the Reason” which afforded him the chance to really flesh out the deep register of his voice as well as hit some pretty high notes. The song had Gabrielle and Sean verging on tears and caused the entire theater audience to erupt in applause and a “Kodi! Kodi!” chant. It was certainly one of the longest standing ovations I’ve seen on the show, culminating in huge praise from all of the judges.
9:11 p.m. – Jackie Fabulous is another act that escaped near elimination after having to earn the Dunkin’ Save in order to perform tonight. For this evening’s set she used her weight as a backdrop to set up bits about her career and love life. Although her energy seemed a little lower tonight, Howie thought her best quality is that he can never tell if her stuff is rehearsed or improvised. Simon got another set of boos from the audience after telling Jackie he didn’t think she brought her best to the stage tonight.
9:22 p.m. – Tonight’s oldest performer, Robert Finley, was on stage with a full band for his guitar playing and vocal performance. It was a quiet soulful performance that Sean said would have worked well in a Quentin Tarantino movie and Simon called classy but possibly better without the rest of the band.
9:34 p.m. – Eric Chien‘s act tonight was more close-up magic involving postcards, a map and some figurines of iconic buildings that he managed to make appear in multiple sleight of hand movements. Julianne was confused about what she saw, but Simon cleared it up by telling him that he made it seem like something “ginormous” was going to happen at the end but it didn’t. The rest of the panel was equally confused, leaving it unclear if he’ll advance despite the notion that he’s one of the best magicians in the world.
9:44 p.m. – After receiving a lukewarm response from Simon last night, Light Balance Kids had a goal of gaining back his love this week. Their Avengers-themed performance tonight was dance-focused with big rock songs that brought the energy up from their previous efforts and by the end even Simon was standing to clap. He admitted that he was an idiot last round now that he saw this performance which he considered amazing. Howie called them one of the few acts from this season that he can see with their own Vegas show.
9:55 p.m. – For the final performance of the night Benicio Bryant tried his hand at a big vocal and while he was a bit off key, the judges still raised in a standing ovation for him at the end. Simon called it a “pretty outstanding” performance and posited that he will for sure make the final. Julianne commented on Benicio’s songwriting abilities by calling it a pop song that isn’t often made, but is poignant. Even Howie had to eat his words about not singing their own songs because tonight it worked for him.
10:00 p.m. – So who was your favorite tonight and who are the five acts you’re going to predict to advance?