By Michelle Anne P. Soliman, Reporter
Celine Dion Live 2018
July 19, SM Mall of Asia Arena
IT WAS a weekend morning in the late 1990s when a familiar piano introduction (in C major) blared into the room and woke this writer (who was then probably in kindergarten) from her sleep. “I know this song. I’ve heard it before,” I thought. I got up and hurried to the shelf beside the stereo system (where Dad would usually place his newly purchased CDs) and saw an album cover with a woman wearing a white shirt and denim pants, her hair in a pixie cut. The singer’s voice was captivating. From then on, I continued to listen to her songs — playing them loud and singing along as if it were a live concert.
On the windy and cold evening of July 19, the memory of listening to those songs came back. Only, it was not with a record, but the live, powerful, and signature vocals of Celine Dion.
The show began at 9:10 p.m. The crowd cheered as she sang “The Power of Love” (a Jennifer Rush original) and entered center stage in a bedazzled gold suit.
Ms. Dion continued with her 1999 single, “That’s the Way It Is” from the greatest hits album, All the Way…A Decade of Song.
After the song, Ms. Dion stood in awe of the cheering crowd. “We finally made it,” she said, referring to her aborted visit to the Philippines in 2014 — she had to cancel that concert due to the deteriorating health of her husband and manager, René Angélil. So this year she made her first visit to Manila, as part of the Celine Dion Live 2018 tour.
Ms. Dion went on and told the crowd that she did not know why her visit took a while. “I guess I live too far,” she said, and expressed her gratitude for Filipinos support of her music over nearly three decades.
She ended the first segment of the show with “I’m Alive” (A New Day Has Come, 2002) and an audience sing-along to “Because You Loved Me” (Falling into You, 1996).
The evening continued with hits such as “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now,” and the movie themes such as “Beauty and the Beast” from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (1991) which launched the singer’s international breakthrough; and “Ashes” from Deadpool 2 (2018).
Ms. Dion, now in a multi-colored fringe dress, also showcased a versatile side, performing a salsa dance while singing “Falling into You” at the same time.
The second hour of the show continued with a repertoire that transitioned to ballads.
Ms. Dion recalled the experience of coping with the loss of her late husband with a heartfelt performance of “Recovering,” a song written by American singer Pink.
The crowd fell quiet upon hearing the first bars to the Eric Carmen original, “All by Myself.” It felt as if the crowd silently anticipated the 15-second sustained high note which Ms. Dion hit flawlessly. As for this writer, I was in awe to finally hear and witness the power ballad performed live.
Afterwards, the mood eased with a performance — featuring a the string quartet — of Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen,” (1975) followed by “A New Day has Come,” (2002), and “Unison” (1990).
When Ms. Dion and the violinist remained downstage, the faint sound of the instrument gave a hint that “To Love You More” was the next song. And it was. It was sung as seamless as the live performance that frequented the music channel charts in 2003.
Towards the end of the show, the show shifted to a more upbeat atmosphere as neon lights filled the stage. Ms. Dion (in a silver dress with neon pink accents) performed rendition of Prince’s 1986 hit, “Kiss.” The show mellowed for a while with “Purple Rain,” and concluded with an energetic performance of “River Deep, Mountain High” (a Tina Turner original).
A momentary stage blackout kept the crowd cheering for more. It did not take long before the band began the first bars to James Horner’s “Hymn to the Sea” from the Titanic soundtrack. The darkness suggested the atmosphere of being adrift, and the crowd held up their smartphone flashlights, illuminating the arena like stars.
Reappearing in a white floor-length gown with a pink drape, Ms. Dion stood out from the cool sea blue stage lighting. The much-awaited performance of the award-winning “My Heart Wil Go On” was superb.
The crowd cheered unceasingly even as the singer and her band took their final bows. Ms. Dion became emotional and stood still for a moment, as if not wanting to exit the stage. She expressed her gratitude through singing Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love” acapella, the crowd singing along.
When the lights dimmed a final time and the singer exited the stage, I remembered one of her earlier statements: “That’s all I know. That’s all I’ve been doing — singing.”
And with Ms. Dion’s powerful voice, that is all she needs to do.