Photos by Neil Van
When Celine Dion sang that she has her own imperfections, her audience had to take a leap of faith. Imperfections were hard to find Monday night at the Scotiabank Arena where Dion played the first of two packed shows, bringing her Courage World Tour to Toronto.
After nearly a decade of re-defining “Vegas residency,” Dion has evolved and she brings her life journey on stage with her to thrill her devoted, patient fans. Everything about the show is carefully orchestrated. From the vibe-setting DJ opener, to the large “courage” screen featuring happy, dancing, kooky fans, to the elaborate visual embellishments in the staging and the exceptionally skilled band. The Celine Dion concert machine is constructed to conquer audiences and crush nay-sayers. It’s impressive, and it works!
Dion appeared at centre stage, donning a glittery red dress that shimmered as she moved. She started the night off with It’s All Coming Back to Me Now, the first of many mega-hits featured in the set-list. Then That’s the Way It Is saw the massive stage screen lift to reveal the full might of Dion’s support system. Her band consisted of 17 members or more – all wearing black to meld into the background. Dion joked about the long break between visits to Toronto offering, “They locked me up in the Nevada Desert…. I escaped!” In fact, her stay in Las Vegas is probably the reason that this tour is so on point. She has perfected the showmanship – and the ability to connect with her audience. Her voice – which is impeccable – carries threads of emotion and shared experience, tethering her to each fan.
A few songs in, with the first few notes of The Power of Love, the audience let out a wild cheer – in a sea of hits, this power-ballad was a highlight. A transition video played – the stylized black and white clips, brought to mind vintage Chanel ads – and hinted that a costume change was coming. Dion emerged in a black and white couture piece with epic sleeves and launched into Love Can Move Mountains, followed by Beauty and the Beast, and a spirited version of John Farnham’s You’re the Voice. In a classic vegas move, Dion then professed that it was getting a tad hot, before ripping off the sleeves of her gown. The transformed outfit – a sexy tuxedo of sorts, seems to echo the feel of bilingual blues number that followed. Dion took the time to thank her fans for their undying support, saying that it carried her through the last few trying years – a fitting intro to the title track from her new album, Courage.
Another costume change had DIon in a black, beaded ball gown. To match the grandeur of the dress, Dion sang her version of All by Myself… and awed the room as she gracefully hit the crazy high note at the tune’s apex. She then graced the arena with a beautiful solo rendition of The Prayer. With Because You Love Me, the audience got the most real moment of the night. Dion stood at the side of the stage stopped directly in front of an older woman a few rows up. The fan was overcome with emotion and her companion consoled her – it played out for a few moments on the big screen and brought the entire room to tears.
It seemed unthinkable that there were songs left to sing, but there were. The next segment brought a good dose of Vegas to T.O. Dion appeared in a silver, glitter laden jump-suit and offered up a medley of iconic tunes… David Bowie, Queen, Prince, Tina Turner, Patti LaBelle… the energy was through the roof.
The encore came after a few moments. In an impossibly large, frilly white gown, Dion performed My Heart Will Go On to everyone’s delight. With the night drawing to a close, Celine Dion gave her fans a pitch perfect, simple interpretation of John Lennon’s Imagine, a poignant parting message of peace.