‘America’s Got Talent’ episode 17 recap: Final night of quarter-finals includes performances from Brandon Leake and Celina [UPDATING LIVE BLOG]

“America’s Got Talent” continued the final phase of its unconventional season 15 on Tuesday with the third live performance show of the summer. In this quarter-finals round, which consists of four episodes, 11 acts per night will perform for the judges. After each round of performances, three acts will advance to the semi-finals based on the overnight audience vote, then the 4th, 5th and 6th vote-getters will compete live for the Dunkin’ Save which one will earn and another will be saved by the judges.

On the September 1 live show, Simon Cowell was still absent while recovering from surgery, leaving Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum and Sofia Vergara on their own on the panel of judges. The line-up for this final night of quarter-finals was led by Howie’s Golden Buzzer act spoken word artist Brandon Leake. He was joined by comedian Alex Hooper, acrobats Bello Sisters, vocalists Celina, Kenadi Dodds, Broken Roots, and Resound, cheerleaders C.A. Wildcats, dancers Divas & Drummers of Compton and Noah Epps, and puppeteers Lightwave Theatre Company.

SEE ‘America’s Got Talent’ judges rankings: All 13 judges ranked from worst to best

Based on performances from the August 11, August 18 and August 25 live shows the artists already in the semi-finals are: singers Archie Williams, Cristina RaeShaquira McGrath, Daniela Tuleshova and Roberta Battaglia, sword swallower Brett Loudermilk, twin sister entertainers Double Dragon, mentalist Max Major, dancers BAD Salsa, aerialist Alan Silva, choral group Voices of Our City Choir, dance group W.A.F.F.L.E. Crew, diabolo duo Spyros Bros, drummer Malik Dope, and daredevil Jonathan Goodwin.

SEE Where are the first 14 ‘America’s Got Talent’ winners now: Find out what happened to your favorites

Below, follow along with our live blog as we recap all the action on “America’s Got Talent” Season 15 Episode 17 in our minute-by-minute blog.

8:03 p.m. – Performing from a gym in Plano, Texas, the C.A. Wildcats opened the night in their element. They delivered a standard cheer routine, but weren’t 100% in sync and had a few missteps. Heidi was into their energy and the explosiveness of their routine, but Howie wasn’t convinced that they were better than their prior performance while also calling them the American version of V.Unbeatable, one of his favorite acts. Sofia did think they were better this time, so she’s in full support of their performance.

8:14 p.m. – Tonight Kenadi Dodds sang the song she wrote for her sister. It was a piano country ballad about the friendship of sister love and their lifelong connection, performed from the Universal Studios lot.

8:22 p.m. – Heidi told Kenadi that she definitely has it in her to be a part of the music world, but Howie wasn’t a fan of the song and got a roaring set of boos from the at-home audience behind him. Sofia at least admitted that she liked her previous performance more, but thought it was still a beautiful song.

8:25 p.m. – Next up was Lightwave Theatre Company whose video package showed the struggles they had preparing for a puppet-based show while their country of Romania was under strict lockdown protocol. Their story this evening was a continuation of the one they told before with the girl and her dog, but brought into the year 2020 with the added plot of the pandemic. Halfway through Howie decided he wasn’t enjoying it and hit his red X. Once again he said it wasn’t better than before, but also called it “depressing.” Heidi understood that it was a sadder story than they told before, but thought it was a nice message to say about helping out the people going through this who are alone. Sofia acknowledged the challenges the group went through with the lockdown, but she agrees with Howie that she liked it better last time.

8:37 p.m.Resound was the first act of the night to perform live in front of the judges. The trio’s harmony-focused song was another emotional ballad seeking to give hope and inspiration to the audience. For the first time tonight Howie wasn’t entirely negative about the performance, but also hesitated to say he thought it was better. Both Sofia and Heidi openly loved the performance, in large because of what Heidi called the “light around you when you’re singing.”

8:49 p.m. – Tonight the Divas & Drummers of Compton got to perform from their home turf, a football field, which put them in an environment that spoke volumes about their role in the world of crowd-hyping. They brought high energy and excellent camerawork that produced a better performance than anything they could have done on the stage.

8:56 p.m. – Heidi loved the energy and choreography of the performance, but was really taken with the speech that one of the members gave the rest of the crew prior to the performance. Howie and Sofia both called it their favorite act of the night, giving them a full panel of positive feedback.

9:00 p.m. – For her performance from the studio lot, Celina sang London Grammar‘s song “Strong.” It was a self-empowering song that gave her a ton of really big notes to hit and an easy uplifting melody to follow.

9:07 p.m. – Sofia began the critiques by calling Celina the “highlight of the night” and saying she wishes she could give her a Golden Buzzer. It was Heidi’s first time seeing her and she thinks she “nailed it” with a “beautiful” performance. Howie echoed something Simon usually says which is that the thinks the audience will remember her performance, especially when it comes to voting.

9:10 p.m.Noah Epps explained that he loves creating characters in his dances, and that most of the time he gets his inspiration from old horror films. The character tonight was a black & white doll with a porcelain face. Heidi thinks that he’s the type of dancer that will be emulated by others and Sofia said what’s good about him is that he has such a clear vision of what he wants to be.

9:19 p.m. – You may remember Alex Hooper from 2018 when he first auditioned and totally bombed with the audience. He came back his year with a similar schtick, but made it to this round and now has the confidence to roll with that. But tonight he decided to disguised the roasting nature of his comedy in the reading of a story book “As the World Burns.” He took some pretty deep digs at Sofia, where he got some worrying grunts from Terry and a flat response from Sofia herself. Still, Howie laughed throughout and called his comedy “brilliant.” Sofia said he’s really funny, but in a “horrific” way and was eager to press her red X while Heidi had a prepared response to him, a rhyme to tell him how he’s not that funny.

9:33 p.m. – For their quarter-final performance, Broken Roots played their version of the U2 classic “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” They injected a Bruce Springsteen sort of grit to the song and their country twang made it completely their own.

9:39 p.m. – The judges were happy to see the guys back since they were cut in the previous round and returned to the quarter-finals as a replacement for Thomas Day, who had to drop out of the competition. They were reserved in their praise of the song, with Howie likening it to coffee house music.

9:43 p.m. – One member of Bello Sisters injured herself while rehearsing for the live shows, but tonight all three of them performed having pushed through the pain in their training process. As strong as their song choice, the women proved that the strength to hold each other up while doing handstands and flips and bends truly comes from within. Heidi said she loved watching it and Sofia called them “spectacular” and can see them making their dream come true in Vegas. What Howie really likes about them is that they are doing this kind of act as three women without a man, which makes them unique.

9:52 p.m. – The final act of the quarter-finals round was Brandon Leake, the very first spoken word artist and poet in series history. His poem tonight began as a love story between his mother and him and naturally involved into the fear that a Black mother has for her son whenever he leaves the home, shining a light on the murders of the last few months like Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Howie stood in awe after the performance next to Heidi and Sofia who were also speechless. When they found their words, the judges called it powerful and thought it was important that he used the platform to talk about those stories. Sofia said she wants to keep hearing him and a clearly emotional Howie said it was “above and beyond” anything he’s ever heard and said it’s the conversation America needs to hear now.

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