“America’s Got Talent” kicked off season 18 on May 30 with a two-hour premiere. There are no changes to judges’ dais this summer with executive producer Simon Cowell and long-time judge Howie Mandel taking their place on the ends of the table. Heidi Klum returns as well, as does Sofia Vergara who took a break when “All-Stars” aired earlier this year. Hosting duties are entrusted to the lively Terry Crews once again.
In the audition phase of “AGT,” an act needs at least three of the four judges to give them a “yes” vote to advance to the next round. If two or more judges buzz the act, they are immediately eliminated. Each judge and Crews has one chance to hit the “golden buzzer” and send an act straight through to the live performances.
The format will be the same as in previous seasons, with “America’s Got Talent” airing just on Tuesdays at first with the initial weeks devoted to the auditions that took place around the country. The live shows begin on Tuesday, August 22 with voting results shows following on Wednesday.
Below, read our minute-by-minute “America’s Got Talent” recap of Season 18, Episode 1 to find out what happened Tuesday, May 30 at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT. Then be sure to sound off in the comments section about your favorite acts on NBC’s long-running reality TV show and who you think will ultimately join the AGT list of champions.
8:04 p.m. – The season kicked off with Sofia wanting to say “no” before the act in an inflatable dinosaur costume even spoke. Trex Flips managed to change her mind though, impressing her with a humorous display of trick jumps that had the audience and Sofia howling with laughter. Heidi said it was amazing that he always lands on his feet considering the outfit and Simon called the best dancing dinosaur they’ve ever had on the how. Howie said the key to the act was the surprise of the act. The bigger surprise was that all four judges voted “yes” to see Trex Flips again, including Simon who hesitated at first before summing up the audience votes as 7,000 other yeses.
8:11 p.m. – Next up in front of the judges was violinist Philip Bowen who was inspired to take lessons as a kid from an episode of “Sesame Street.” His uptempo and contemporary play of the instrument showed Philip’s talent and charisma according to Simon who called it a “great audition.” Sofia said she was “crying a little bit” because she could tell how special and important the audition was for him. Howie started the voting with a “yes” that continued down the line to make four total to see Philip advance in the competition.
8:22 p.m. – Making a bold return to the stage was Steel Panther, a band said to have been playing together for 40 years. Ahead of their audition, the audience stood in ovation and the band declared that they’d be offering Heidi and Sofia lifetime backstage passes and concert tickets. The promise wasn’t needed to persuade the judges because they all stood in ovation at the close of their performance. Howie said that their kind of music needs to make a return, Heidi said she “absolutely loved it,” Sofia admitted that she’s seen them before because her husband hired them for his birthday, and Simon said he has a lot of respect for them because they do whatever they want to. Simon closed it out by calling it a “brilliant” audition before all four judges gave them a screaming “yes” to send them through.
8:36 p.m. – Feeling like Steel Panther would be a tough act to follow, the judges did not have a hard time buzzing out pole dancer Allan Reinikka, who Sofia said was “not exciting at all,” or comedic act Nancy LaFancy, who Simon called “a bit boring.” They were followed by Three G, a Ukrainian acrobatic trio that has been working together for only three years. After falling out of the dismount of their first formation, the group responded by following through with most of their remaining tricks to perfection. They broke out of their final formation as well and immediately motioned to attempt it again, but fell out of it a second time as the auditorium remained silent. In their critiques, the Howie acknowledged that their balancing tricks were “far more dangerous” than he’s ever seen before. He added that what matters about their performance is that they kept getting up to try again. Sofia said she admires their attempts to try again and the parts they were able to do “was spectacular.” Heidi called it “incredible” and urged them to not feel bad and Simon said that they showed more about who they are as people than anything else. He said they “made it more human” and they saw enough to know they belong on the stage. Despite the falters in their performance, Howie, Heidi, Sofia and Simon all gave them a “yes” vote of confidence.
8:57 p.m. – Magician Trigg Watson combined his tech career with his passion for magic to create a unique act of his own after being inspired by other magic acts from the show’s past. In his presentation, Trigg had a social media feed on screen that he pulled and placed objects in and out of as he scrolled along. At times, the images from the screen extended beyond the screen itself, reaching out to Trigg. Howie said he’s “never seen anything more amazing” and felt like he was watching a dream. He declared that he thinks Trigg can win the season. Sofia called the act “so different,” Heidi couldn’t count how many times she said “wow,” and Simon said that it started off “a bit annoying,” but by the end it was different enough for him to love it. In their voting, it was once again an unanimous set of “yeses” for him to advance.
9:08 p.m. – Kozo had the audience laughing ahead of his performance because even through an interpreter he was not answering the questions that Howie was asking him about his act. Instead he went into a performance that developed into a comedic routine that was not universally loved. Simon, Heidi, and Sofia all hit their red buzzers before the climax of his act where he landed a remote control helicopter on his up-turned rear side. Despite hitting their X buttons, Sofia called it “creative” and Simon couldn’t believe he flew from Japan just to do that act. Howie countered by saying that it was “original, interesting” and he ultimately liked it. Still, Howie was out-voted by the other three judges that maintained their “no” votes.
9:19 p.m. – Things turned around when 11 year old aspiring Broadway singer D’Corey Johnson took the stage for his theatrical performance of “Open Arms.” After singing once with the backing track, Simon asked him to do it again a cappella, providing the young singer with a second opportunity to wow the auditorium with his voice. Sofia called it “amazing” and said he has a place on Broadway, Howie acknowledged that “less is more” when he sang without the track, and Heidi agreed that the “music was in the way” of his voice. Simon concluded by saying how important it is that D’Corey knows where he wants to go in his career, promising that things will be amazing for him. The judges were back in agreement for D’Corey with all four of them voting “yes” to send him through.
9:30 p.m. – The next act was Shadow Ace, a shadow box artist from the Philippines whose goal was to “revive a lost art.” He explained that in his community they don’t have electric power so they’d use candle light and a wall to create their own entertainment. Sofia called it a “real show” that was “spectacular.” Simon said it was the opposite of boring and thinks that kids will love it because it’s “original and stupid.” Heidi appreciated that the point was “fun” instead of the deeper meaning that a lot of shadow acts bring to the show. Howie liked the music choices and believes people will want to see more of it. Going down the line, it was a “yes” from Simon to Howie to make it another unanimous decision.
9:41 p.m. – Stand up comedian Orlando Leyba admitted that Terry helped him not be nervous ahead of his performance because of his motivational talks. Orlando described that his wife gifted him an improv class once and that transitioned into stand up comedy. Following his set mostly centered around his reactions to the show “Yellowstone.” Simon told Orlando that he’s “naturally funny” because he made the audience believe all of his stories were real (Orlando insisted they really happened). Sofia applauded his wife for helping him start his career, Howie said his 13 year career has finally paid off, and Heidi said she loves everything about him. It was not a tough call for the judges to unite on their vote to send Orlando through to the next round with four “yes” votes.
9:51 p.m. – The final act of the night came all the way from South Africa to represent as the Mzansi Youth Choir. The group surprised the judges by performing “It’s OK,” a song written and originally performed by former contestant Nightbirde who passed away in 2022. Ahead of critiques, Heidi described how special of a meaning that song has to them and the entire AGT community. Sofia called it “the perfect AGT audition” and Howie was impressed that Nightbirde’s presence touched people on the other side of the globe that they’d choose to sing it. The group explained that they were so touched by her story that they chose to perform it once and then it became “a pillar of strength” for them as a choir. They wanted to continue her legacy. Holding back emotion, Simon said that the performance brought back a lot of memories for him and said that seeing them perform it would have meant a lot to Nightbirde. He called their tribute “breathtaking.” Amidst chants from the audience for Simon to hit the Golden Buzzer, Simon said that “we’ve never done this before, but we’ve always discussed one day giving the audience something.” In that moment, the judges all turned around to face a roaring audience who stood to resume their chants of “golden buzzer.” Terry rushed to the dais to join the judges as Simon declared, pointing to the choir and then to the audience,”This is for you. This is for you. This is for Jane,” and together they all let the golden confetti rain down on Mzansi Youth Choir!
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