15 Dec 2018
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Gig Review: Celine Dion @ Spark Arena, Auckland - 11/08/2018

12 Aug 2018 // A review by Reef Reid
After a long spell of 22 years, five-time Grammy award winner Celine Dion hit the stage at Auckland's Spark Arena last night in the first of three shows she will perform in Auckland over the coming four days. I headed along to check out the voice behind the name who is regarded by some as "pop music's most influential voice" among female pop stars. Selling out two shows in Auckland and forcing another, it's clear she is certainly popular here in New Zealand. Dion performs in Auckland at the conclusion of her Live 2018 tour which began in Tokyo, Japan on the 26th June.

Dion is supported on the tour by Veronic (DiCaire), a female artist and accomplished impressionist from Canada who has opened for Dion previously on tour in 2008 and as recent as last year. Veronic hit the stage at 7:30pm and I'm not sure people knew what to expect. But, essentially Veronic did a number of impressions of various artists using humour accompanied by outstanding vocals and bang on mannerisms. So, on the one hand she would satirise them, while on the other, pay respect by delivering a vocal performance that the artist might agree with. She had the right mix of both and even poked a little fun at Celine Dion herself. Artists in her crosshairs were Annie Lennox, Blondie, Pat Benatar, Joan Jett, Shakira, Britney Spears, Tina Turner and Whitney Houston to name a few. Veronic, refers to herself as "being like a jukebox" which seems somewhat accurate. Her performance was slick and very entertaining. So much so, that she left the stage to a standing ovation from the packed house. If you decided to skip the support act you definitely missed out!

Dion is known to "cover" a number of songs and she does so well with her spin on it. Last night she performed 10 covers excluding those her band performed on track 16. Sadly, for me, one of them was not Alone by Heart which Dion is known to perform, but not on this occasion. Celine Dion hit the stage to a huge welcome that brought the house to their feet as she opened with a huge vocal number, The Power Of Love originally by Jennifer Rush. Dion sets the bar immediately high with her version, much to the enjoyment of the audience, especially myself. Her voice is well suited to this song.

Immediately following that is some of her most successful singles, That's the Way it Is, Because you Loved Me and It's All Coming Back to Me Now, all of which reached number 1 in the US charts in the late 90's. It was clear that she was not saving the best until last! Dion interrupts Because you Loved Me to request full crowd participation in the singing of the last part of the song to which we all comply.

Dion performs a duet with the talented Barnev Valsaint on Beauty and the Beast and at the conclusion takes time out to tell a funny story about her involvement in the sound track of Deadpool 2 and Ryan Reynolds. The story was great, but very long and in my view some of the cohesion of the show was lost as a result of the time. But it certainly wasn't boring, and it added to the overall entertainment of the show.

With Celine Dion's French-Canadian heritage and initial career in French language singles, it would be expected that she would perform at least one track. Not surprisingly (to me) she chose to perform Pour que tu m'aimes encore, commonly shortened to Tu m'aimes encore. It is at this time you really know who the hard-core Celine Dion fans are by who is singing along and there were a few! As well as that, several couples in the front row were dancing and this pleased Dion as she acknowledged them accordingly.

Celine Dion comes across as a genuinely nice person (with a great sense of humour) and seems deeply appreciative of her fans, something that she acknowledges often throughout the show. She also performs with a very capable and professional group of musicians (16 on stage) and this is evident especially as they carry the show during her costume changes. Many of these musicians have been with her for many years. She pays due respect to them throughout the night.

During All By Myself she brings the roof down with a massive high note which I thought was the peak of her vocal performance. Dion plays a number of medleys and one in particular just with her stringed quartet and back-up singers worked well. The light show was incredible and as a live music photographer I had a lot of appreciation for this. Additionally, the sound mix seemed spot on (from where I was seated) with everything and everyone distinguishable as it should be. She closed the main set with River Deep Mountain High and thank the audience before leaving the stage. Her band remained on stage, so nobody was going anywhere.

After a short time, Dion returned to the stage for the first of two encore tracks. It was obvious to all I'm sure that one of them would be My Heart Will Go On (Theme song to Titanic), a single that went double platinum in five countries and reached number one in eleven countries in 1997. I admit that for me, this song was so overplayed and covered back then, that I began to dislike it a little. However, hearing it live, sung by Celine Dion herself and after a night of outstanding music beforehand, it was hard not to get caught up in the well-known track.

Dion closed the show with a second encore, a version of Elvis Presley's Can't Help Falling In Love With You in acapella style and with that, she left the stage to a standing ovation also. Dion plays two more shows in Auckland before heading home.

Quite simply the show was outstanding!

Setlist

1. The Power Of Love
2. That's The Way It Is
3. I'm Alive
- Costume Change
4. Because You Loved Me
5. It's All Coming Back to Me Now
6. Beauty and the Beast
7. Ashes
8. Think Twice
- Costume Change
9. Falling Into You
10. Pour Que Tu M'aimes Encore
11. You're the Voice
12. Recovering
13. All By Myself
- Costume Change
14. Medley with Stringed Quartet: At Seventeen/A New Day Has Come/Unison
15. To Love You More
- Costume Change
16. Medley by band: Uptown Funk/Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough/We Are Family/Groove is in The Heart/Sex Machine
17. Medley: Kiss/Purple Rain
18. Love Can Move Mountains/River Deep, Mountain High

Encore:
- Costume Change
19. My Heart Will Go On
20. Can't Help Falling In Love


Review written by Reef Reid
Images by Reef Reid and Chris Zwaagdyk of ZED Pics
 

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