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Review: Celine Dion's Taking Chances tour at Staples Center

Celine Dion

Celine_dion_ It's a no-brainer why Celine Dion's Taking Chances tour is shaping up as one of the highest-grossing North American concert attractions of 2008.

Think about it: As a nation we’re going to have to pony up several hundred-billion dollars and hope it might halt the ever-deepening economic meltdown.

Feel-good factor for that outlay? Zilch.

But for a measly C-note or three, hundreds of thousands of fans are filling arena after arena to hear Dion deliver emotional climax after emotional climax, goosebump-inducing vocal thrill after thrill, sweeping chorus after chorus filled with spirit-lifting affirmations and enough technical razzle-dazzle to dwarf the Super Bowl halftime show.

And that was just her opening number.

The reason she’s such a hit with the masses was plain during her two-hour show Tuesday night at Staples Center, only the second performance after resuming the tour that had been interrupted by a bout of throat problems that forced her to cancel several shows here and in Australia.

After five years of nightly honing of her act in Las Vegas, she and her tour director have created a production that’s all peaks, no valleys — at least in terms of pushing all the right buttons. Her songs celebrate romantic love at its most dramatic. Her 1993 No. 1 hit “The Power of Love” indeed lionizes the potency of the heart, but by way of the muscle in that delicate looking French Canadian throat. Melodies are structured for maximum impact, starting in the middle of her comfort range, dipping low for the “of” before taking a skyrocket leap up to “love” that’s the equivalent of a gymnast’s 10.0 dismount from the uneven parallel bars at the Olympics.

Indeed, much like a champion athlete, Dion frequently punctuated her prize-worthy phrase-and-song endings with a clenched fist pumped in the air or pulled down from the sky.

But if her vocal workouts are all about perfection — and without a hint Auto-Tuning in sight — she succeeds at letting her human side come through in the spaces between songs.

Right out of the gate Tuesday, she offered up a heartfelt — and lengthy — explanation and apology about the spate of canceled shows before digging back into the music. And when a technical glitch with some video screens suspended from the ceiling rigging forced a 30-minute delay midway through the night, she returned to the stage with another equally sincere humbling of herself before her adoring fans.

(All the same, she disappeared down her rabbit hole at center stage while stage hands scurried to dismantle the recalcitrant contraption. If only all of us could do the same every time our computers or cars break down.)

That gave some tangible ballast to the often overblown arrangements that typify her middle-of-the-road pop songs. The album from which the tour draws its name does indeed take a few chances —stylistically, placing her in harder-hitting rock settings than she, or her fans, have been used to. And she included a healthy dose of the new songs, pumped up by her razor-sharp band and three singers, who were joined by eight dancers on several of the night’s biggest numbers.

This, of course, culminated in the finale performance of “My Heart Will Go On,” which opened with film clips from "Titanic" and filled out with candle-lighted chandeliers that descended from the rafters and countless refracted beams of light crisscrossing the arena to eye-popping effect. The only thing missing was an iceberg.

Dion is an easy target for music aficionados who think it’s possible for a diva to inject as much soul as voltage into her singing — Aretha Franklin being the standard-bearer. Yet even though Dion may be rightfully blamed for spawning a million wanna-bes, all of whom seem to turn up at “American Idol” auditions — she displayed more restraint than her main competitor at the top of the pop charts during the '90s, Mariah Carey. Only a couple of times did she let fly random crystal-shattering high notes for the sake of demonstrating her range.

Excess has become a matter of degree in pop. Where Dion once represented the epitome of pop bombast, in the wake of a new generation of vocal showboaters who dominate the pop and R&B singles charts, at 40 she often as not came across as the poster girl for elegance and good taste.

Well, except maybe for her earnest but misguided stabs at James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” and Ike and Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High.” She can slip in a few R&B inflections, but a soul diva she’s not, and she completely missed conjuring the anguish of the former or the romantic desperation of the latter.

Even there, she at least was lending some credence to her tour’s title. That should be worth some reasonable chunk of the $2 million she likely grossed for the night.

--Randy Lewis

Photo: Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (8)

We saw Celine last evening and can say its the single greatest performance we have every seen--bar none!

I saw Celine at the Honda Center on Saturday and have been to 10 of her shows. This tour, by far is the best! She just keeps getting better and better. She's worth the price of the ticket and more!!!!

Celine is an amazing live performer. There are very few singers who can actually deliver such songs, night after night. I like your honnest review and the fact that you mention that Celine doesn't oversing nearly as much as Mariah. The American medias seem to love to trash Celine but she at least doesn't need to show her undies to sell albums. Why do people love to make fun of Celine? Jealousy or what? Why can't the media make as much fun out of Madonna (who can't sing live) or Mariah who obviously has lost some of her voice power. Celine is just like wine! Getting better every year. Check out her new greatest hits album called My Love : Ultimate Essential Collection. There are some new and rare songs on it too!

I studied music and the signers are different and somertimes a bit strange compare to other musicians. Dion is no exception. She gets too personal and emotional and people get embarrassed. But. Now she controls herself better and says the right things on stage. I don't sweat as much when she talks.

Also. She sings in french and what she does is as great as in english in a smaller market. That's a lot of music.

Lately I saw a lot of live videos and everywhere she goes!....it's absolute nonsense.

It's true that she's not a soul woman even if River Deep Mountain High is ok. Aretha is the one and only, and I don't think Céline should sing It's a Man's World. She'll adjust.

But hey there s a lot of music aorund. Come again and try her french stuff. It's a complete and different story and worth the detour.

I never was a fan but, I have to admit, she works hard and gets better.
Kent Nagano (conductor of the Orchestre Symphonique de Monbtréal) said his interests were in high standard musicians whatever the kind of music they do, and that Céline was that kind of talent.

Hey scuse my french

happy Christmas


We were in the cheap seats ($85), and it was worth every penny! I've secretly admired Celine for years... it was a dream fulfilled to be there Tuesday night. Unexpectedly, tears came to my eyes for the first two songs of the show. I relaxed after that and enjoyed the ride.

Celine Dion is the best singer in the World.I have been to her concert at Staple December 2 2008.She is an amazing performer,with her powerful voice.And she is very nice person ,good mother,good daughter,good wife ,good sister,and makes me happy all the time,when i hear her voice.When she is singing, all positive energy come from her to (i believe )all her fans.Thank You Celine for You being with us.Your always fan Bella.

thank you Celine you're the best of the best, the best singer and performer in the whole world I have been to her concert last friday Dec 6, 2008, I flu from N.Y, to Glendale Arizona, Thank you Celine, this world without you, is incomplete.

thank you Celine you're the best of the best, the best singer and performer in the whole world I have been to her concert last friday Dec 6, 2008, I flu from N.Y, to Glendale Arizona, Thank you Celine, this world without you, is incomplete.


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