The world of Celine Dion is divided into two opposing groups: those who love her, and those who love somebody who loves her. I fall into the second group: I love Las Vegas, and Las Vegas loves tourists who love Celine. If you reduce that equation to the lowest common denominator, it predicts that pretty much everybody will end up seeing Celine’s new show at Caesars Palace, whether they want to or not.
On behalf of the Not camp, I checked her out on opening night. It was hair-raising to sit down in the Colosseum, knowing that two hours of adult contemporary music lay in my imminent future. My dread was in stark contrast to the boundless enthusiasm of the other camp; they were clapping and chanting for Celine before the houselights dimmed or the curtains even opened. I yearned for a stiff drink to take the edge off, but a buzz would impair my judgment. I dug my fingernails into the armrest and braced myself for the worst.
Like many Las Vegas shows, this one starts with a video illustrating the awesomeness of the show you’re about to see. Instead of considering it redundant (as in, “I already paid for the ticket, I don’t need any more convincing”), view it as an olive branch to us-who-were-dragged-here.
Next: deafening concert screams accompanied by a standing ovation. Expect a lot of that, dear hesitant friends. If you stand every time the crowd does, then you’ll at least get your exercise.
Finally, Celine appears, looking resplendent in an elegant white glitter gown. The curtain behind her falls in a big beautiful parachute wave and reveals a 31-piece band behind her. Her first song, “I Can’t Live (If Living is Without You),” is exactly the type that we rejectionists hate. It’s slow and lyrical, with swaying violins. Puke. But the spectacle carries me along. And I don’t not enjoy myself.
Celine gives a short opening monologue with believable self-deprecation and goofy facial expressions. She comes off as so genuine, it’s hard to hate her.
She then takes it “back to the beginning” with “Where Does My Heart Beat Now?” that she sings while surrounded by video panels of a younger her. Not my type of song, and the Celine nostalgia does nothing for me, but her sustained notes are impressive. Damn impressive. Another standing O, which is deserved.
While she belts out her tunes, I look at the bandstand, her glitter gown, the giant crystal chandelier and I realize this is what Old Vegas looks like when it is alive and well.
The large stage becomes a small lounge with the intimacy of red velvet curtains, as Celine goes Ella Fitzgerald on “Mr. Paganini.” Wait a second … Celine can skat?!? Her voice rings like a cathedral during the impressive parts of the song. I can handle this sort of thing, and so can you.
And then Celine starts talking about the love between parent and child. It’s a preface for the cheesy lullaby “Goodnight, My Angel” by Billy Joel. While she sings, a montage of baby videos plays. If nothing else, they are cute.
As the night goes on, it seems that Celine is alternating between fun covers and long, slow ballads. For example, she sings “The Reason” by Carole King and then an awesome cover of the James Bond film song “Goldfinger.” It’s 8:30 p.m., and time has been sailing by in spite of my predictions.
Although the idea of two Celines may seem overwhelming, the hologram-duet portion of the evening does have novelty value. Celine sings with a hologram of herself and then with hologram-Stevie Wonder. Don’t become hypnotized when you see Celine smiling down at herself approvingly. Avoid looking into the eyes! Later, Celine sings Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen” while sitting on the stage with a guitarist. I must have become hypnotized myself. While listening to her sing of being an ugly duckling, I think, “Celine understands me! She does! She loves me!” Little did I know that T-shirts sold in the gift shop say the same thing.
Then comes “one of the most emotional songs ever written.” I groan, ready for her next ballad. Instead, it was Jacques Brel’s self-effacing French love dirge, “Ne Me Quitte Pas.” Truly, the saddest song ever. When the song ends, we’re both crying, Celine and I.
“All By Myself” is as good a ladder as any to lead you out of this pit of despair brought on by the previous song. The song ends; Celine gives a triumphant fist pump and walks off the stage. It’s 9 p.m., and I’m spent. But no, it’s not over yet. There’s still the Michael Jackson tribute, with a monologue about MJ and a few covers (including an outstanding and passionate cello trio medley).
Finally, at 9:20 p.m., I hear those fateful notes, the ones that sound like wind blowing over the ocean. Celine appears in a blue dress that flows like a wave and sings her biggest hit, “My Heart Will Go On.” And it gives me chills. She gives a full bow to her band, a big goofy wave to the audience and a double fist pump. And she’s off the stage by 9:26 p.m.
The Verdict: I have survived. And you will, too. Sure, her originals are cheesy, but she mixes them up with enough covers to keep you entertained. The only danger is that you might enjoy it. But don’t worry, if you join the Celine-loving camp, I won’t tell.