‘America’s Got Talent’ review: Grace VanderWaal, The Passing Zone, Brian Justin Crum, Malevo in live show #3

AGT -Tonight, “America’s Got Talent” has returned from the depth of the Olympics hiatus with the final show of the quarterfinals, and one that has a lot of singers. Luckily, there are some rather-good ones mixed in with a juggling act, a great comedian, some interesting magicians, a ballroom-dancing duo, and a guy who does things with his body that we really can’t describe. This show should be a celebration of all things weird and wonderful, and we’re ready to break it all down for you LIVE.

Be sure to refresh this page often, since we’ll be adding much more to it as the night goes on.

Vello Vaher – The issue Vello’s got at this point in the competition is merely one of being a supremely gifted guy at a thing that just isn’t mass-market, and it’s hard to produce something that looks different than every other performance he’s done. Our problem tonight was not so much that his tricks were similar; it’s that they were often lost in the huge production and some of the humor and fun from his first two outings were gone. It’s easy to give into the temptations of the live shows with the lights and the stunts, but sometimes, smaller can be better.

Ronee Martin – Here is the sad truth about Ronee: When looking at the lineup for tonight’s show, we went ahead and assumed that she would be placed early on in the show. She’s a great singer, but she’s not flashy. This is probably going to sound worse than we mean it: This performance of “Lean On Me” was boring. Her vocals were great, but the key flaw was the decision to turn what can be a rollicking, inspirational classic into a mid-tempo number. The arrangement sapped so much of the fun singalong quality out of the lyrics. This is not going to be memorable at the end of the night.

Kadan Bart Rockett – At first, we found ourselves critiquing little things like his sister Brooklyn’s projection on stage or the slow build to the trick. There was a certain element of watching a little girl get revenge on her brother by careening chainsaws into him that was delightfully dark and weird! The big reveal at the end was something akin to many professional magic acts out there, and while it’s certainly been done before on the show, this was just about as effortless as tricks done by people three times Kadan’s age. We’re not grading him on a curve; this was better than some adult magic acts we’ve seen.

Linkin’ Bridge – Amazing. Absolutely breathtaking. Easily a top three vocal performance for any singing act this season. Admittedly, we’re somewhat biased since “You Were Always on My Mind” is one of our favorite songs, but the arrangement and the pitch here was so on-point that it took us completely out of the fact that we were reviewing an oft-silly reality competition note. The only thing we would change (and this is a MINOR nit-pick) is that we would have gone down on the list note to give it a more subtle flavor.

Alla and Daniel – They’re great dancers, and it’s a cute story. We do think he is the equivalent talent-wise to Kadan as a magician. The fundamental difference is that as a viewer of this show for many years, ballroom-dance doesn’t pop on this same level. You have to be really creative for it to work, and this just felt a little hokey with the Hawaiian shirt and all of the background dancers serving as a visual distraction.

Blake Vogt – We said going into this show that Blake was well-positioned to really up his standing with a cool trick, and we do think he did that not just with his clever trick, complete with audience participation. Learning about him and his 100+ allergies adds a certain degree of quirkiness and fun to his act, which to us was a weak point of his entering this stage of the competition: He just wasn’t standing out. Now, he is.

Edgar – Other than Linkin’ Bridge, we have to say the singers so far have been a letdown. While the staging + the fire were cool and dramatic, the performance was a lot of standing around and singing overly-sentimental lyrics. We really wanted these guys to come out tonight and be the cool, hip family band that showed that they can be current and not something you’d see at some tourist trap somewhere. Unfortunately, this felt more dated and lifeless.

Julia Scotti – She’s a personal favorite of ours just because she complains about the most random / mundane things. We really do think that the Larry David comparison still applies! The bit about the cat on the charity commercial was brilliant, as was her take on relationships, spooning, and how she wants to date someone a thousand miles away who she sees once a year — a prisoner in Minnesota with no possibility of parole.

Brian Justin Crum – There is something about what Brian does that is incredibly captivating, and it’s not just his voice (which is, by the way, INSANE). He just has this innate, remarkable ability to work the stage and draw you into his world. It’s something that few other people in this competition can do, and it comes from experience. While we still don’t think he is a top contender to win (he’s not getting the pimp spot, after all), it’d be shattering if he doesn’t go through.

Malevo – Let’s be honest: These guys just ooze COOL. They are in complete control, they are powerful, and their moves are completely in sync with one another. They are not strictly a dance crew, but they are more than likely the best in the dance category for several years. The best thing about them is that we still think they can go bigger, bolder, and more dangerous. Also, we’re glad that they kept their shirts on, mostly because it reminded us that their talent is there just as much as their sex appeal.

The Passing Zone – It’s hard to think in the moment, but we’re pretty sure we’ve seen this “people juggling” bit somewhere before from them, whether it was on their first appearance on the show or somewhere else we’ve seen them perform. We certainly don’t blame them for doing it here, since it is a perpetual crowd-pleaser and it gave us a chance to watch Howie Mandel, Mel B, and Heidi Klum howl in horror. These people gonna need raises after this! Really fun.

Grace VanderWaal – It was a surprise to utterly no one that the show’s likely favorite to win got the primo spot, but hey, when you’re this talented it’s hard to argue. We would say that her audition song probably had a better melody, but the fact that she is this young, this skilled a writer, and has the sort of passion and presence she does is incredible. Grace could be the first vocalist to really come out of this show and be a superstar, and we’re not just saying that to drum up false excitement. She’s that good.

Before you go, head over here to see where we ranked some of the contestants going into tonight! More than likely, we’re probably wrong about a few of our choices. You can also sign up at this link to get some other TV news on all we cover via our official CarterMatt Newsletter. (Photo: NBC.)


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