You probably think that you don’t know that many Celine Dion songs but, guess what, you probably do. And you will find yourself singing along, sorry, belting out to every single one of them if you ever have the good fortune of attending one of the Canadian diva’s concerts.
Such is the power of Celine Dion who, for years, was one of those artistes everyone secretly loved but would rather die than admit that they are a fan of. But how the tides have turned as the Québécois singer, in recent years, has become a fashion icon and a purveyor of all things cool in pop culture. (Merci beaucoup, Drake and Vetements!) It explains why the full-house crowd at the first night of Celine’s two-night concert at the Sands Grand Ballroom consisted of people who lived through that era where being a Centrepoint kid was a thing as well as current cool kids and Instagram-influencers who no doubt grew up weaned on a musical diet consisting of Celine power ballads courtesy of their parents.
The gig, which marks Miss Dion’s first time performing in Singapore in her almost four-decade long career, started shortly after 9pm — an hour after the audience were seated. But we were entertained in the interim by warm-up act vocal impressionist Veronic DiCaire who performed bang-up impressions of divas like Shakira (uncanny), Britney (commendable) and Mariah (not even close, honey). She smartly left out mimicking Celine, who is one of the most parodied artistes of our time. Though we think it would have been a hoot if Veronic had paid tribute to her patroness who we all know can take a joke. Did you not see her music video for Deadpool 2’s theme song ‘Ashes’? See? Cool.
Of course Celine, clad in a sparkly gold pantsuit, started the concert with a bang, and by bang we mean her earth-shaking first US number one single ‘Power of Love’. Everyone was hanging on to their seat, waiting for the diva to deliver that power note – you know which one – and deliver she did. At 50, her voice is still magnificent. Crystal clear, pitch perfect and as robustly rousing as that moment when the state flag flies past the stadium during the National Day Parade.
The venue was intimate and the stage set-up and production, stripped back and simple. It was as if the singer was determined to make sure that was nothing to distract the audience from her voice. Not that there was any competition.
Everyone, especially those who paid $1,200 a pop for front row tix, were there to listen to her sing her biggest hits and we would all leave happy as she powered through the gamut of her biggest hits from ‘Beauty and the Beast’ to ‘All By Myself’, from ‘Because You Loved Me to ‘That’s The Way It Is’. What about ‘My Heart Will Go On’?, we can hear you asking. That was of course saved for the finale where the ballroom was lit with the glow of handphones all wanting to capture the moment. You know, for the grandkids.
The most touching point of the night came when she sang ‘Recovering’, a song written for her by Pink, who she called her “greatest gift”, following the death of Celine’s husband René Angélil in 2016. A fragile, heartbreaking piano ballad, Celine came thisclose to tears during the performance but, by the end of it, managed to ‘recover’ from the sadness as she cast her gaze upwards and winked.
Our biggest revelation though is how goofy and funny Celine Dion really is. She seems genuinely excited to be here and she doesn’t mind taking the mickey out of how OTT she is. “Don’t keep doing that (punches her chest) I’ve been doing it for 25, 20 years, and look what happened,” she laughed. She knows everyone makes fun of her overly-dramatic stage gestures, you know, the aforementioned chest punching, the air guitar-ing while propping her back on the piano, the literal falling on to the floor when she sang ‘Falling Into You’ — it’s all there. But she simply doesn’t care. It may not have seemed like it back in the day, but in 2018, where everyone craves authenticity, it’s exactly what makes her cool.