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Concert Reviews:
After A Decade Away, Celine Dion Reunites With Fans At Palace
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

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AUBURN HILLS -- While much of the country was watching this year's major presidential candidates discuss the questions of the day on Friday night (Sept. 26), a near-capacity crowd at the Palace was dealing with its own burning issue -- when would Celine Dion sing that song?

OK, it was no great surprise that the multi-platinum Canadian songstress saved "My Heart Will Go On," the titanic, Academy Award-winning uber-hit from the "Titanic" film, until the very end of her hour-and-50-minute concert. But a genuinely pressing concern was whether Dion could deliver on stage more than a decade after her last major North American tour, which also stopped at the Palace. And the answer to that, a qualified "yes," was really no surprise, either.

It's not like Dion has been away from the stage, after all; she spent most of the interim performing her "A New Day..." show in Las Vegas, which was a sensation for five years. And that tenure had a pronounced effect on the built-to-dazzle Take A Chance Tour she's hauling around the world this year.

The sight-and-sound spectacle showed that Vegas gave Dion a tighter and more sophisticated performing sensibility. On Friday there was less chatter than her last visit and more choreography, along with repertoire that was broad -- perhaps to a fault -- and designed more to provide a night of entertainment than to survey one artist's career. In that regard it was satisfying, but it would certainly leave a die-hard Dion fan wondering why she had to do some of these things when she has a body of work and hit track record that could provide an equally if not more compelling exposition.

Why, for instance, were Dion and her 10-piece band paying tribute to Queen -- with a two-song medley of "We Will Rock You" and "The Show Music Go On?" What was the point of an extremely Caucasian soul music segment, during which the backup singers and six dancers sashayed through a medley of Sam & Dave's "Soul Man," LaBelle's "Lady Marmalade" and Aretha Franklin's "Respect" before Dion joined them. Singing Heart's "Alone" is one thing -- Dion actually covered it on her 2007 "Taking Chances" album -- but James Brown grunts on "Sex Machine" and "It's a Man's Man's Man's World?" That's all Vegas, designed to give folks a reason to be lured away from the table. But out here in the provinces, especially after a 10-year absence -- and with the closest slot machines about a half-hour away -- her own material offers more than enough heft to carry a show.

In that regard, the first half of Friday's concert was more intriguing, with Dion -- who appeared in five different outfits -- interspersing "Taking Chances" songs (the title track, the atmospheric "Eyes on Me" and the Latin-tinged "Fade Away," the emotive ballad "My Love") with big hits such as the show-opening "I Drove All Night," "Power of Love," "It's All Coming Back To Me Now," "Because You Loved Me" and "Pour que tu m'aimes encore." Backing singer Barnev Valsaint recreated R. Kelly's part on the duet "I'm Your Angel," while Andrea Bocelli appeared on screen during "The Prayer."

And the concluding blast of the joyous "Love Can Move Mountains" and encores of Ike & Tina Turner's "River Deep, Mountain High" and "My Heart Will Go On" at least brought the focus back to Dion and her rich, if occasionally over-emotive, vocals.

What was beyond quibble, however, was the show's visual punch. Performing in the round -- actually square -- at center arena, Dion and company cavorted on a series of hydraulic lifts, ramps that took her closer to fans on the sides and conveyer belts that punched up some of the choreography. Video screens were generously tucked into the structure, including four large ones above each side of the stage, while an LED "cage" provided some arresting moments as well as a mechanism for seamless set and costume changes. And lights positioned around the Palace set a variety of moods and effectively brought the crowd "inside" the staging.

The net result was a fine and welcome return for Dion, a reunion with a fan base that vociferously let her know on Friday that it doesn't want to wait another 10 years for her next visit.



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