Live Review: Celine Dion celebrates legacy as Las Vegas residency nears end

On Saturday 8th June 2019, Iconic chanteuse Celine Dion will finally bring her run of Las Vegas residencies to a definite close, sixteen years after she first began performing at The Colosseum.

The powerhouse vocalist, now almost forty years into a storied career, is currently working her way to a historical moment for Las Vegas’ glamorous scene of in-house performers and big ticket shows, with around 28 concerts planned for 2019, separated into two stretches: between 26th February and 16th March, and between 14th May and 8th June.

Without question, she has earned her place in Vegas lore as the diva who once refreshed and refocused the very concept of the artist residency, an enviable reputation that will most certainly be maintained well past that final curtain call. Until then, fans heading along to one of her highly sought performances should be doing so with reasonable expectations. Celine may no longer have the dazzling and ambitious production one would expect from a Vegas show of this calibre, but the retelling of her long and illustrious career is still something that no discerning fan of music should miss.

Where A New Day – her original Las Vegas residency – opted for pizzazz, Celine favours trying to achieve intimacy on a grand scale.

Regardless if you enjoy her work or not, it’s hard to deny the singularity of a voice imbued with that kind of depth and dynamism; the kind of individuality that has made Celine Dion one of the most referenced and celebrated singers of all time. Not many vocalists can capture the same dramatic heft of timeless hits like “My Heart Will Go On” and “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now”, nor take saccharine songs like “Because You Loved Me” and “The Power of Love” and build them into profound power ballads, shaking the shallowness often credit to pop sentimentality.

Such is the strength of Celine’s voice, which gives her a presence like no other. She roars through the Colosseum with notes that do laps around the rotunda, playing with the venue’s carefully engineered acoustics with often thunderous results. That power is evident from the start, reaching forth with aforementioned tune “The Power of Love” which leads into a string of fan favourites like “That’s The Way It Is” and “I’m Alive”. It’s an exciting way to kick off the show, and a nice reminder that, even after all these years, there has been no noticeable compromise from the lower registers to the mighty highs. This is no doubt a result of years of careful and precise techniques used to preserve such a unique set of pipes.

I couldn’t even begin to think of all the unusual lengths Celine takes to keep her vocals in top shape (I did hear a rumour about special air-conditioning), but its clear that whatever she is doing works well enough to have her sounding like this. And she needs to have those notes in pristine condition; how else would she tackle “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” with such flair and showmanship? Singling that song out as a grand production on its own, even if her considerable orchestra and band aren’t doing anything radical.

Photo Credit: Denise Truscello

The collective talent – totalling 31 – backing Celine is a draw in itself, all experts in their field and more than capable of accenting these songs with soundscapes equal parts tender and tough. Celine’s voice demands it; hell, she’s directing it, as instrumentals follow her inflections and melismas closely. This is a well rehearsed, flawlessly executed show; at least when the music is playing.

Celine Dion has always seemed a bit scruffy and inarticulate when it comes to just talking to the audience. She rambles a lot, sometimes incoherently; never concise and always stretching anecdotes to the point of exhaustion. I do recall her at least attempting to tell us a story about a vague sexual fantasy she had when Ryan Reynolds when asked to be involved with Deadpool 2, but that story seemed to last for 20 minutes and anything noteworthy said was lost in her odd manner of storytelling. The audience may politely chuckle at her trying to tell a story, or playfully admonishing her pianist, but confusion would be the honest response.

A stomping, stadium-worthy cover of John Farnham’s “You’re the Voice” (the unofficial Australian anthem) is juxtaposed with an elegant rendition of “Pour Que Tu M’aimes Encore”. The genuine emotions of “Recovery”, which Pink wrote after Celine’s husband passed away in 2016, are elevated further with the heartbreaking “All By Myself”. It’s this rush of contrasts that proves the strongest stretch of Celine’s show, smartly positioned before the first major set change.

A beautiful bouquet of diamonds cascade down from the ceiling as Celine and a much smaller band stand in the centre of the stage, paring back the music for an acoustic break: a stunning show of vocal prowess with gentle versions of “At Seventeen”, “A New Day”, and “Unison”. It’s this sense of calm that adds an extra layer of depth to Celine’s show, waltzing her way towards “Beauty and the Beast”, only to kind of ruin the vibe with that aforementioned Ryan Reynolds story, which leads to the laboured mediocrity of “Ashes”.

Photo Credit: Denise Truscello/WireImage

After that (mostly) excellent second act, Celine attempts to pick the energy up with a medley of certified dancefloor hits, like Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk”, Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough”, and Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family”. It’s too odd to get most people out of their seat – think wannabe cross-genre misfire “Treat Her Like A Lady” – entirely Vegas-appropriate, but ill-fitting of Celine’s voice, which struggles to chase the rhythm. The segment works perfectly fine as a party-minded interlude though, choosing fun over sense as the night rolls into two Prince covers, “Kiss” and “Purple Rain”. The latter has Celine trying to match Prince’s iconic curtain-closing wails and, for someone who clearly isn’t Prince, she does a reasonable job.

“Love Can Move Mountains” and “River Deep, Mountain High” suit Celine much better, scripts she can really bring to life with that golden voice. The latter especially brings out the diva’s booming side, nailing the Ike & Tina Turner classic before the obvious finale.

And by obvious finale I of course mean “My Heart Will Go On”. Celine’s signature song was treated with a spectacle entirely worthy of the soaring love song. James Horner’s instantly recognisable composition was mostly kept in tact, from the mournful flutes – half-drowned by screams of excitement from the audience – to the commanding key change, Celine was kept comfortable in her element as a platform rose from the stage and a vortex of water swirled around her. Overdone? Perhaps, but it helps elevate this song to religion and reiterates its place as Celine’s quintessence.

Leaving it there would have been a better way to end the show, although Celine couldn’t help singing a few notes of Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love” as a nod to both the crowd and the city that has been so pivotal to her career.

Celine Dion’s “Celine” is currently playing at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace through to Saturday 8th June, 2019. For more information and tickets click here.

FOUR STARS OUT OF FIVE

Set List

The Power of Love
That’s The Way It Is
I’m Alive
Because You Loved Me
It’s All Coming Back to Me Now
Pour Que Tu M’aimes Encore
You’re the Voice
Recovering
All By Myself

At Seventeen/A New Day/Unison (Acoustic)
To Love You More
Beauty and the Beast
Ashes

Uptown Funk/Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough/We Are Family/Groove is in the Heart/Sex Machine
Kiss/Purple Rain
Love Can Move Mountains
River Deep, Mountain High

My Heart Will Go On
Can’t Help Falling in Love

Feature image by Ian Laidlaw.

The reviewer attended this show on 7th November 2018.

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Chris Singh

Chris Singh is the Deputy Editor of the AU review, an obsessive hip hop nerd, a whisky drinker, and a lover of all things travel. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter with @chrisdsingh.

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