Blue light played off the geometrical pattern of strings extended from each side of the stage and over the heads of the audience, meaning only one thing: William Close and his Earth Harp would be performing at America’s Got Talent Live. I did a little happy dance.
Whether you’ve seen NBC’s reality competition or not, the level of talent in its live incarnation makes for one of the best variety shows in town. Thankfully, it’s (mostly) without the typical Vegas cheesiness.
Sure, America’s Got Talent Season 7 winners and “headliners” Olate Dogs got talent, but the cute animal tricks get repetitive after about five minutes. On the other hand, Close’s innovation, which turns any room into a musical instrument was what had me maxing out my votes all season.
Close began the Oct. 3 show at the Palazzo Theatre with the Earth Harp’s hauntingly beautiful resonating tones, which were even more incredible in person. The show’s producers seemed to recognize his talent, and had him perform an additional two segments (there’s a permanent version of his Earth Harp at Kà). Another act that translated better live was the Lightwire Theater. The troupe’s oversize illuminated dancing puppets used the full space, even appearing amid the audience to their surprised delight.
Other Season 7 finalists included escape artist Spencer Horsman, who might just be Houdini reincarnated. Even though TV viewers were treated to his “Jaws of Death” escape and saw Horsman squeeze into a box of water adorned in locks and chains, it’s one of those acts that mesmerizes every time.
Unfortunately, technical glitches and awkward changeovers punctuated the night. The patriotic theme in sand-story artist Joe Castillo’s act was a crowd favorite, but his first segment was interrupted by (false) fire alarms. Comedian Tom Cotter saved the day and improvised while the show was reset. Cotter’s scheduled routines were hilariously on point, although it was disappointing when he played comedy-topic roulette and an audience member chose the same parenting routine Cotter performed on the TV finals (I preferred Cotter’s fresher fire-alarm improvising).
An act familiar to Las Vegans, AGT Season 4 competitors Recycled Percussion, took the stage as well. As talented as they are, their inclusion seemed more of an afterthought, almost like since their show at the Tropicana was over, might as well slap them on the bill.
On a whole, the combined efforts of America’s Got Talent Live created a truly entertaining experience. I’d even see it again if its run was extended past Nov. 17 and other past favorites could rotate through.