Published on theMusic.com.au, Aug 2018
Pic by Ted Dana
A handful of pop superstars had graced the Perth Arena stage with their presence in the weeks prior to that of Canadian royalty Celine Dion, all of whom brought with them mind-blowing, extravagant production.
The arrival of Dion seemed to have a more chilled out atmosphere surrounding it, and the packed venue suggested it was her renowned voice and not all the bells and whistles usually accompanying an international tour of this size that punters were anxiously awaiting.
The chatter turned to a roar as the lights were killed and a theatrical intro took hold, uplifted by a medley of dramatic strings. It was stadium pop at its finest as booming drums became entangled with heavy harmonies and screeching guitar. The wall of noise finally eased up as Dion casually strolled into the spotlight in a blinding gold suit to the soaring chorus line of The Power Of Love.
Her powerful voice struck like lighting and left a shock that felt like a lifetime of heartbreak kicking you in the chest.
Grinning ear to ear, Dion and co shuffled into uplifting number That’s The Way It Is, reconnecting with Aussie fans after almost a decade apart.
“Tonight, what do you say we make up for that lost time?” she asked, and punters were more than ready to comply as they screamed the lyrics of I’m Alive and Because You Loved Me.
Through a series of shiny, futuristic images, the screens around the stage added another level of depth to the production, without taking away from the songs and Dion, whose lack of big dance moves were compensated by her big personality and mesmerising vocals.
Dion briefly left the stage while her backing band unleashed an emotionally intense score that wouldn’t seem out of place in a blockbuster film, before she re-emerged in a new outfit and continued the theatrical affair with It’s All Coming Back To Me Now, her voice reaching gritty new heights in its final moments.
The scene was set for Beauty And The Beast, and joined by backing singer Barnev Valsaint, Dion delivered the nostalgic and iconic tune in a unique way that highlighted how much of a theatrical feel her performances have.
It was her first film theme (“a long, long, long time ago”) and one of her most adored, alongside “the one about the big, sinking boat”, but it was another theme and its accompanying anecdote that had everyone on the edge of their seat and laughing. The story began with a letter from fellow Canadian Ryan Reynolds and ended with Deadpool 2’s Ashes.
Classical guitar and flute shifted the mood, with Dion and dancer Pepe Munoz channelling the intimacy of Falling Into You into a romantic, calculated Latin dance before punters were transported to another world with Pour Que Tu M’aimes Encore, “the biggest song of my French career,” as she noted.
Things took a surprising and local turn with the iconic electronic drum intro of John Farnham’s You’re The Voice, bringing fans to their feet, clapping and screaming along. It was a risky song choice, but one that paid off greatly.
Dion touched on a recent and difficult time in her life, mourning the death of her husband, Rene Angelil, back in 2016. She praised Pink – who had performed the same venue only a few weeks earlier – for a gift in the form of a song that gave her strength during the heartache.
Recovering stripped things back to a delicate piano line for a powerful moment that proved all Dion needed was her voice to stun.
The emotional rollercoaster kept climbing, through the ebbs and flows of All By Myself, and a touching string quartet rendition of Janis Ian’s At Seventeen, A New Day Has Come and Unison before soaring through the big choruses of To Love You More.
A medley of disco bridged the gap while Dion disappeared again, and her band led an epic dance party that re-energised the audience. Dion strolled out on a wave of funky bass in an outfit plucked straight from the ’70s, adding pop star flair to a number of hits from the era before paying tribute to Prince with an uplifting version of Purple Rain, the venue illuminated in a colour to match while Kaven Girouard gave the song the guitar shredding it deserved.
The soul-pop onslaught continued with Love Can Move Mountains and River Deep, Mountain High, before the mood shifted again as the haunting vocal melodies of seminal hit My Heart Will Go On floated out from the darkness for the encore; half the room was wiping tears from their eyes while the other watched along through a phone screen.
Promising to return sooner next time, Dion and co left fans with a parting gift in Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling In Love With You. Celine Dion engenders loyalty from fans like few others and after witnessing her live, it’s clear why.