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September 22, 2019

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Celine’s ‘most difficult show ever’ is a lesson in strength and support

Celine Dion Returns to Caesars Palace

Denise Truscello / WireImage /

Celine Dion returns to the Colosseum on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016, at Caesars Palace. Dion is pictured here backstage with Scott Price, her musical director.

Celine Dion Returns to Caesars Palace

Celine Dion returns to the Colosseum on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016, at Caesars Palace. Launch slideshow »

You could tell the moment the curtains opened at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace that this was not an ordinary performance. Celine Dion’s shoulders slightly slumped, and her gaze looked far out, beyond the audience, as if searching for an unseen image.

But that voice. Man. It was there again for Celine on Tuesday night, as were 4,000-plus fans, as she vaulted into “With One More Look at You,” evoking the Barbra Streisand version of that song. “With one more look at you, I could learn to tame the clouds and let the sun shine through.”

By then the audience was standing, knowing that it would not be an ordinary show. It was Celine’s first performance at the Colosseum since the death of her husband, Rene Angelil, on Jan. 14 after a lengthy and grueling battle with throat cancer.

Angelil helmed Celine’s career since she was age 12, financed her first album by mortgaging his house and was the man who forged the concept of the mega-residency in Las Vegas, where superstars could perform regularly in Strip theaters of several thousand fans.

Leading those artists, of course, is Celine, who has used the stage at the Colosseum to share her life’s triumphs and tragedies. The home movies of her family, including the couple’s children, Rene-Charles and twins Eddy and Nelson, have long been played to a warm reception during her performances at Caesars.

The stage seems a cathartic place for Celine, who told the audience after her voice quivered in her opening number, “I did rehearse this song on my closet, and it went way better than that.”

The audience laughed, and many shouted, “We love you, Celine!” and even, “We love you, Rene!”

She continued, “Through my life, I only had eyes from my husband, who sat out here night after night. People thought that I was looking at him, but I didn’t need to because every time I close my eyes, I felt Rene onstage with me whether he was seated in his seat right there, in the balcony, backstage or at home with the kids. He’s always been onstage with me. And nothing will ever change that.”

Artistically, Celine said, “Rene was my very best critic. He never told me what I wanted to hear. He told me what I needed to hear. You know, night after night, on our way back home from the show when he was so silent, I could sense that he was trying to know how to approach me without hurting my artistic feelings, but there were things that he had to tell me for my own growth.”

Romantically, she said, “Rene is the only man that I have known all my life. He always made me feel that we were on our first date. Isn’t that amazing? Never talking bluntly, and always impressing himself in a soft and gentle way. We were one. And nothing has changed. We will always be one.”

Celine performed with her typically abundant warmth and precision in her return show, though she did halt entirely near the end of the wrenching “All By Myself,” dropping her head in silence almost through the entire final verse after hitting the high note, “All by myself …” and the crowd rose and roared again before she closed with, “Anymore!”

The night ended with the twin showstoppers “My Heart Will Go On” and, with Celine standing in solitude, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

Near that culmination, she said, “This was the most difficult show I have done in my entire life.” The sniffing of those who were in tears was joined by huge applause. Celine has delivered her music as a way to create great joy, in that room and everywhere else.

Today, it is a means of therapy, and Celine’s thousands of fans will be there to support her — and to share in a good cry.

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