On May 31st, “America’s Got Talent” returned with a spectacular two-hour premiere episode of its 17th season. Host Terry Crews welcomed series judges Simon Cowell, Sofia Vergara, Heidi Klum and Howie Mandel back to the dais with performances from the first set of performance artists out of thousands that auditioned. As in the past, this season’s champion will take home the $1 million cash prize and the chance to showcase their talent as a headlining act in Las Vegas.
The last time we saw the AGT game on our TVs was for the thrilling conclusion to the special season of “America’s Got Talent: Extreme” on March 14th. The new season of the main series kicked off two months later on May 31st with a two hour premiere episode featuring magic, alpacas, yo-yos and one golden saxophone. Check out our “America’s Got Talent” season 17 episode 1 recap of all the night’s acts and the judges’ reactions in our live blog below:
8:04 p.m. – The first act of the season was the enthusiastic group The Pack Drumline from Chicago that started as an after school program for at-risk youth and evolved into a full-fledged group despite budget cuts. Using popular hip hop music, the group performed a drumming-dance hybrid show that left the judges with no choice but to deliver the season’s first standing ovation. Sofia said that they’re “already amazing” and predicted they’ll do really well on the show. Heidi clocked that the judges and the audience were all grooving to their sounds and liked that they mixed contemporary music into their work. Simon was really drawn into how passionate they are and said it reads across their faces as they perform. Building a drumlins of their own across the table, the judges gave them one Yes after another to send them through to the next round.
8:12 p.m. – Next up was the colorful youth AGT superfans XOMG Pop, a girl group created by JoJo Siwa and Jessalyn Siwa. They performed their original song “Candy Hearts” in rainbow glitter costumes with high energy choreo and cycling through each of the girls for their own unique solo moments in the track. Their standing ovation from the judges was met with Howie’s admission that his granddaughter would love the group, Heidi’s compliment that they’re all on point and talented in their own way, and Simon saying he didn’t like it, he loved it. Simon called them a “mini explosion” and led the panel through another set of four Yes votes.
8:23 p.m. – Coming from Philadelphia, Mervant Vera brought his magic act to the show as a way of proving that if “you can do it” on AGT then you can do it anywhere. Mervant promised that he’d do magic in a way not seen on the show before and he did just that by rapping through his shuffled card trick where all the cards he flipped over coincided with lyrics to his song. He explained to Sofia that he’s always wanted to write a rap music that includes magic, leading Simon to call it “honestly incredible” and ask him why he hasn’t auditioned before. Following their declarations of love for Mervant’s act, the judges vote him through to the next round unanimously.
8:33 p.m. – Lee Collinson was able to settle his pre-show nerves ahead of his performance of Dermot Kennedy’s “Better Days.” He said that he chose the song to encourage people to look ahead after the trauma of the last few years and that it’s very personal to him because of the loss he felt in his own life. In his critique, Howie underscored the pressure that Lee would have felt as a solo vocalist on their stage and Heidi said that he “nailed it” despite all that. Sofia loved his “beautiful personality” and Simon said there’s something “charming, humble, and likable” about him. Before sending him through to the next round, the judges invited him to call his mom back in the U.K. so they could be with him as they announced their votes of Yes.
8:46 p.m. – The first animal act of the season was Pepino the Mini Horse whose own nerves were too much to perform up to standard. Attempts to get Pepino to “sit” on command failed until he trotted off stage before hearing that he wouldn’t be moving on. Pepino was followed by other declined acts from Burning Joe and acts that play violins with their feet, are dressed as giraffes and April, Sarah, & Friends that do yoga with goats and alpacas. Jack Grady‘s mixture of magic and poetry did not go over well either, earning him unanimous X buzzers almost immediately.
8:57 p.m. – Singer songwriter Ben Lapidus came to music following the death of his father, calling it his “lifeline” and hoping that his original song would resonate with the judges. The judges were not expecting to hear a song about parmesan cheese, but when the crowd started cheering after X buzzers from Simon, Howie, Sofia and then Heidi their disappointment got complicated. The crowed booed as Simon and Howie said they don’t like the song and then started chanting “parmesan! parmesan! parmesan!” Eventually both Terry and Heidi joined the audience in demanding that he perform the song again. Miraculously, the power of the crowd worked and Simon realized that the hook of the song had changed his mind. Simon, Heidi and Sofia all changed their votes to Yes and so Ben moved on!
9:09 p.m. – Thirty six year old trained opera singer Celia Munoz from Spain was introduced to ventriloquism by seeing former contestants sing in the genre and decided to learn to do it herself. Unlike other performers, Celia did not use a doll to show off her talent. Instead she “prepared” for singing with a vanity on stage where she put on makeup, brushed her teeth, drank water and took a humorous phone call while singing through the corners of her mouth. The performance returned the judges to their glee, with Sofia calling it a surprise and different from anything they’ve seen. Heidi and Howie said that her twist to not use a doll was refreshing and Simon said it’s the “best original” interpretation of ventriloquism they’ve seen. Once again the judges were united in their Yes votes for Celia to go on.
9:20 p.m. – Veranica & Her Incredible Friends took the stage next, surprising Simon with the list of animal pets that twelve year old Veranica has, including doves and camels. With only dogs in overalls on stage with her, Veranica wowed the judges with that acrobatic tricks like hoop-jumping and rope-jumping, as well as scooter-riding in unison that they achieved. Howie said that the act “dazzled and surprised” and Simon pointed out that they’ve never had an animal act actually listen to anything the judges have to say. Needless to say, they loved the act and sent them through to the next round with four Yes votes.
9:30 p.m. – The next act was comedian Mike E. Winfield who bears the weight of his family’s hopes and dreams on his shoulders. For his set he began by saying he “likes older moms” whose kids just left the house, juxtaposing his own youth with that of her kids that he refers to as “step-man” and himself as “step-Mike.” He transitioned into jokes about his job in the “steal department” (self-check out line) at a grocery store and his experiences there. Among cheers from the audience, Sofia said she loves his energy and smile, Howie called his jokes authentic and memorable, Heidi said he’s fantastic with a cute face, and Simon told him he has star quality. Without a doubt, the judges gave him four Yes votes to the next round.
9:40 p.m. – Admitted shy personality Shu Takada pushes himself to be a more outgoing person through his yo-yo performances. He says that sharing his yo-yo style with AGT is his way of breaking the pre-conceptions of the tricks. Even though Simon prefaced the audition by calling yo-yo acts boring, Shu left the judges immediately speechless with his acrobatic dance moves all while keeping the yo-yos spinning in the air. Perfectly choreographed, Shu’s act had Simon saying “my God,” Heidi calling it the best they’ve ever seen, Howie calling it cool and fun, and Sofia saying his nerves drifted away the second he began. Instead of saying yes, Simon had all the judges drop a “yo” in favor of sending him through to the next round.
9:50 p.m. – The final audition of the night came from “show-read” Avery Dixon, propped up by the support and encouragement of his mother to live out his dreams as a saxophonist. He explained to the judges that he was bullied as a kid because of physical and vocal differences associated with being a prematurely born child and how that led him down the path of wanting to commit suicide. He says that playing the saxophone took him away from that dark mindset and gave him something to refocus his attention on. He told them his goal with music is to do the thing he loves and to provide space for himself and his family to “live loudly” where the cops won’t be called on him for practicing his talent. Following his song, the judges gave Avery a standing ovation. Heidi said that if you can get Howie to dance then you’re really good and Howie replied by saying that he can change the world and that he’s supposed to be here on the show. Heidi added that his playing of the instrument is him playing with his heart and that everyone feels it. Sofia called it special to everyone because of how special it is to him. Simon told Avery that he hopes his bullies are watching his audition because he was “great” because he provided all the ups and downs of a vocalist. Saying it’s “in his blood and it’s his destiny.” When they started voting, Terry came out to say there’s “no need to vote” because this was the act that everyone is going to have to watch succeed as his Golden Buzzer choice!
Avery Dixon was Terry’s favorite performer, but which is YOUR favorite act so far this season and do you think they can take home the $1 million prize? Sound off on the upcoming season in the comments below and with other fans in our reality TV forum. Also be sure to make your predictions to influence our reality TV racetrack odds.