Friday Night: Celine Dion at American Airlines Arena


Celine Dion

Friday, January 23, 2009
American Airlines Arena, Miami

Better Than:
Going To Vegas

Celine Dion. She of the fabulous legs. Celine Dion. She of the non too subtle emotions. Celine Dion.  She of the rubber faced camera muggings. Celine Dion. She of certifiable stardom.

Truth be told, they don't make 'em like her anymore.

Yet, there are those that loathe her. The mere mention of her name can elicit a glut of emotions. This actually happened to me at the upstairs bar at Chili's in Bayfront as I chugged a tall one before I went to the show at the American Airlines Arena Friday night. A couple next to me scarfing down Chili's Queso and sizzling fajitas ask me if I was going to see Celine. When I said, yes, the man made a vomitous gesture, sticking out his tongue as if he were wretching, revealing the food in his mouth. This is the kind of reaction Celine can sometimes evoke.

An hour later, I was drinking in Celine, realizing that no matter if you love her or loathe her, she's a performer. She brought to Miami her Taking Chances World Tour, her first road trip since a five-year stint at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas ended in 2007. For those who never got to Vegas to experience the show, Dion was determined to bring a little bit of Vegas to Miami.

Her opening act was tapped from the Golden Nugget. Gordie Brown, a singing impressionist, started with some stale old bread, an impersonation of Hootie and the Blowfish (huh?), but then won over the crowd with a ranting Jim Carrey impression.

The one good thing about a Celine Dion show is it's generally punctual, and she didn't disappoint. Gordie took the stage just a few minutes after 8, and then the lights dimmed at 9.

The 40-year-old native of Quebec, performed most all of her more than 100-minute show in English, save for one French ballad. She opened with the rousing "Taking Chances." The thoroughbred knows how to work the stage, and this one was custom made for that. The elaborate set up of floor lifts kept the band in four corners, drums and percussion to the left, piano, guitars and vocals to the right. At one point, the hardwood edging turned into a moving walkway for Dion to glide across to display her most perfected of pageant runway walks.

She acknowledged some special guests in the audience including Miami's favorite pop diva, Gloria Estefan and her, husband, Emilio, whose faces were flashed on large LED screens. At one point, Dion even gave Estefan's "Conga" a little a capella go of it.

The camera was also ready to pan into Dion's mother, Thérèse Dion, as the singer told the story about the French Canadian 81-year-old who bore 14 children. Celine self-disclosed that she was the youngest. She also divulged that her son René-Charles, 8, is touring and isn't being "home schooled" but "tour schooled." "We'll see how that turns out," she said.

There's something genuine about Dion whether it's put on or not. When she nails a high note it's like an Olympic swimmer reaching the end of the pool and setting a world record. She doesn't mind a little drama, either. She dropped onto her back at the end of the cover of Eric Carmen's "All By Myself." Numerous times she dropped to her knees during a number, and in one oddly dramatic close up, the camera panned into her blowing on her fingers like she had just shot a pistol.

She mentioned that Miami was making her a bit loose (that's what they all say) in the 15 years (she also changed it to 12 years during one dialogue) since she had been in the Magic City.

Like the Vegas show from which the Taking Chances tour was spawned, there were numerous costume changes. Dion appeared in the first act wearing a tight-fitting lavender cocktail dress, and those legs! amplified by some fantastic high heels. She spent a good part of the night in a bejeweled vest and wide bellbottom slacks that were accented with the oddest looking Speedo type overlay crotch patch.

For a Motown style number, white straps crisscrossed her legs and it was difficult to tell if they were connected to shoes or from where they came from? When did white ACE bandages become a fashion statement? To close the night, and for the grand Titantic encore, she sailed across the stage in a black evening dress. Classy.

I went back to Chili's at the end of the night to try out my review on the vomitous man. I ended up finding him at Bubba Gump's where he was having a nightcap. "So how was it?" he asked.  "Mind blowing," I said. Of course, he had to make his signature gesture. "Bleech," he emoted as he displayed the late night menu in his mouth. I don't believe I'll ever be able to eat Bubba Gump's Far Out Dip again.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias:  I could have done without the retro section of the concert where Dion resurrected the song "Rag Doll" and tried to amp things up with Tina Turner's "River Deep, Mountain High." She should stick with what she does best and that's ballad singing. Ditch the disposable covers.

Random Detail: What other pop diva is Celine related to? Give up? Madonna and Celine share a common ancestor, Zacharie Cloutier, a French Canadian, who lived from 1617 to 1708.

By the Way:  If you're going to the Bank Atlantic Center show in Sunrise on January 30, you'll most likely see the same show described above. The Taking Chances World Tour hasn't changed much since it started almost a year ago on February 14.

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Michelle F. Solomon