There comes a point in every Celine Dion show where the waterworks open and you can’t stop a tear from running down your face.
The giant screen displays home movies of the superstar and her children cavorting on the beach, while she sits off to the side and croons Billy Joel’s “Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel).”
But once you endure that? It’s the theme from “Goldfinger” played by a 31-piece orchestra. The soaring horn section, lush strings and Dion getting close-enough-for-jazz to Shirley Bassey’s stratospheric final note? Goosebump city.
It just goes to prove something in this show will get to everyone. As Celine says from the stage, “Music is in everyone’s life, one way or another.”
Last week, the Canadian superstar passed the 200-show mark of her Colosseum at Caesars Palace showcase (with no onstage fanfare), and she will be in town for scattered dates until Labor Day.
The summer edition is new by only one song, the anthemic Ne-Yo collaboration “Incredible,” here in duet with backup singer Barnev Valsaint. The way it brought the core fans to their feet was a strong argument to dig even deeper into last fall’s “Loved Me Back to Life” album, and bring the retrospective tone even more into the present tense.
It’s certainly time to retire that opening video, which welcomes back a star who came back three years ago. (Another way of looking at it: 200 shows back in the Colosseum, compared with 132 on the “Taking Chances” tour the footage recaps.)
Beyond that, this one remains the benchmark for all that Las Vegas entertainment should be, but usually isn’t. How rare is it to go all in and do everything first-class? Even impressionist Veronic DiCaire, a side project co-financed by Dion and husband Rene Angelil, uses taped backing tracks instead of a band.
But the Celine show introduces a new point of visual interest for almost every song, without pulling focus from the star at the center of it. Once you know director Ken Ehrlich is also the producer of the Grammy Awards, another variety show which changes its visual tone for every number, it makes sense.
And while it’s big ticket for a casual fan, protections are built in for those who don’t much know or care for her back catalog. An early block of the more histrionic hits — “The Power of Love,” “Because You Loved Me” — is wrapped up in the first 20 minutes. Then the show takes a left turn, and its real agenda comes out.
Red drapes scale the giant stage down to resemble an intimate jazz club, so Dion and a trio can take on the Ella Fitzgerald standard “(If You Can’t Sing It) You’ll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini).” Yeah, she thrusts her leg out of her evening gown during the scat singing, a ’90s-Celine move that would make her “Saturday Night Live” impressionist Ana Gasteyer proud.
But more of what follows is a bid to take the singer out of any pop time frame and into a more universal musical vocabulary. A place of stature, where she and Stevie Wonder stand on equal ground in a duet with his projected image (“Overjoyed”). Where she can play Tina Turner on “River Deep, Mountain High.” Or even duet with her projected self on “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?”
If you think the “real” Celine is getting lost in transition, a song in her native French suggests, as bilingual fans have always maintained, that her French recordings have a finesse of phrasing that’s lost in the U.S. power pop.
Either way, “Ne Me Quitte Pas,” usually recorded in English as “If You Go Away,” is a bold, emotional counterpoint to the slick, crowd-pleasing sweep of the rest. Ehrlich holds the singer in a single, grainy black-and-white camera shot that inches in gradually closer to her face as the song goes on, revealing tears if they come.
This night though? Didn’t see any from Row O. Nor did Dion’s between-song banter veer from the script for any of her amusing digressions, raising the specter that the next 200 shows might be a daunting prospect, or be worn down by routine.
Another argument for shaking up the set list, perhaps. You could argue not to mess with perfection. But perfection brings repeat business, and repeat business welcomes fresh energy.
Just don’t mess with the James Bond medley, even if it is a cheap, sentimental way to manipulate our emotions.
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0288.