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Céline Dion performs during her first World Tour show called Courage at the Videotron Centre, on Sept. 18, 2019, in Quebec City.

Jacques Boissinot

Céline Dion on Monday night basked in the glow of her audience at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena, where a lengthy ovation after her encore-set performance of My Heart Will Go On seemed to overwhelm the superstar singer. Wearing a corseted, monumentally layered dress by Zac Posen and appearing to be on the verge of tears, Dion mouthed the words “Oh my God, thank you so much.” Who would have known she was an icon recently humbled, summarily knocked off an all-too-temporary pedestal.

In late November, Dion’s new ballad-laden album, Courage, opened at the top of the Billboard 200 chart, only to drop to 111 a week later. It was a history-making tumble; never has an album receded so far in its second week. The Titanic sank more gracefully.

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Excitable tabloids reported that because of the chart failure, “all hell" had broken loose within the Dion camp. Nonsense. The only thing that had broken loose was reality. The first-week numbers for Dion’s first English album in six years were not built by sales or streaming success, but by bundling the album with tickets for her current tour. It’s what the major labels do these days: Tack on a “free” album with a concert ticket, thereby juicing the sales numbers for a new LP. Courage “sold” some 116,000 copies in week one. The next week, sales plummeted to 3,000. There is little interest in new English-language music from Dion. Despite her high status, the empress is wearing no gown in that respect.

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But, then, not all numbers lie. According to Billboard, Dion’s Courage World Tour raked in $33.2-million from the first 19 shows. Four shows at Montreal’s Bell Centre sold out at 53,864 tickets.

Dion is a consummate performer. Though she often referred to one of the musicians on stage as “maestro,” Dion was the one in charismatic (and at times charmingly kooky) command during the first of her two nights at Scotiabank. She pulled on heart strings like she was Gabe Kaplan on a Battle of the Network Stars tug of war. Her repartee was polished yet personable.

Fashioned in a blonde bob and an assortment of gowns, jumpsuits, sequined dresses slit high on the thigh and a tuxedo-like situation with optional billowed sleeves, the sinewy singer and fashion enthusiast enthusiastically ran through hits and a couple of new numbers. At 51, her impish instincts and soaring mezzo soprano voice were intact. She opened with It’s All Coming Back to Me Now. Her recall is to be applauded, and it was, over and over again.

On June 8, 2019, Dion gave the final show of a long Las Vegas residency. Across two productions (A New Day, 2003-07 and Celine, 2011-19), Dion drew an astonishing 4.5 million fans. “I was locked up in Nevada, but I escaped," she quipped on stage in Toronto, where she gave her audience a little Caesars Palace sizzle with a medley of David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust, Prince’s Kiss, Ike and Tina Turner’s River Deep, Mountain High and the sexually suggestive showstopper Lady Marmalade. One can take the diva out of Vegas, but one can’t take the voulez-vous coucher avec moi out of the diva.

That razzle-dazzle notwithstanding, Dion is a creature of the power ballad. A two-song encore set that began with My Heart Will Go On ended with a cover of John Lennon’s Imagine. When Dion sang “you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one,” she motioned to the audience, suggesting simpatico. It was one last gesture to her fans, the kind that keeps them coming back.

Céline Dion plays Montreal’s Bell Centre, Feb. 18 and 19; Vancouver’s Rogers Arena, April 17 and 18; Edmonton’s Rogers Place, April 21 and 22; Saskatoon’s SaskTel Centre, April 25; Winnipeg’s Bell MTS Place, April 27.

Set list

  • It’s All Coming Back to Me Now
  • That’s The Way It Is
  • I’m Alive
  • If You Asked Me To
  • The Power of Love
  • Love Can Move Mountains
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • You’re the Voice
  • Tous Les Blues Sont Écrits Pour Toi
  • To Love You More
  • Courage
  • All By Myself
  • Imperfections
  • The Prayer
  • Because You Loved Me
  • Let’s Dance/ Another One Bites the Dust/ Kiss/ River Deep, Mountain High/ Lady Marmalade

ENCORE

  • My Heart Will Go On
  • Imagine

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