Celine Dion has been my favourite singer for a long time, and one of my dreams has been to see her perform live. Back in January, I was tremendously excited to learn that Celine would be touring Europe later in the year – which would include performances in the UK. I managed to snag tickets for her Manchester show, and happily sat back to wait for the end of June.
But we all know what happened at the Manchester Arena back in May. A few uncertain weeks later, it was announced that following those tragic events, the arena would not be re-opening until at least September, and Celine’s two shows there would have to be postponed. I was fearful of a complete cancellation, but further news followed relatively quickly: Celine would be performing on the same date, but at the First Direct Arena in Leeds, though tickets were not necessarily guaranteed due to the smaller size of the venue. Fortunately, I still managed to get tickets for myself and my mum, so we would still be going after all.
Given all the uncertainty that had led up to it, it was only when we took our seats that I allowed myself to fully relax and feel truly excited. My thrill levels rose as the spotlight shone upon a figure on stage. Except it wasn’t Celine Dion; it was…Sia?
There she was, complete with black-and-white fringe covering her eyes and a big black bow on her head, singing Chandelier. Seemed like a surprising support act.
But when the song was over, “Sia” threw away her wig and revealed herself to be a French-Canadian musical impressionist named Veronic DiCaire. Clearly having as much fun as the audience, she proceeded to put on a fantastic little show, with impressions of Adele, Shakira, Christina Aguilera, Tina Turner and others. She deservedly received a standing ovation when it was over.
There was a short break – and then, finally, Celine herself was on stage, her musicians and backup singers behind her. A huge grin formed on my face as she kicked off with The Power of Love; those vocals are good enough on a CD, but listening to them live is something else – even if the crowd singing along occasionally came close to drowning them out!
As expected, the subject of Manchester was raised early on, as Celine explained everything that had happened to ensure as many fans as possible still had a show to go to, and gave her own message of love and support to the UK. The moments where she engaged with the audience in-between songs were pleasant, with a little humour and a lot of emotion, particularly when talking about her late husband Rene; she came across as a truly lovely lady. As for the songs themselves, the two-hour show featured a long setlist with most of her greatest hits, personal favourites including Coming Back To Me Now and Because You Loved Me. Celine’s song from the Beauty and the Beast remake, How Does A Moment Last Forever, was featured, and immediately followed up by her original song from the animated film.
With most of her ballads in the first two-thirds, Celine moved in a more energetic and funky direction for the final third. Then she left the stage and it looked like the end – but everybody knew it wasn’t, as there was still one notable hit she hadn’t performed! Sure enough, Celine’s voice came out of the darkness, gently singing the opening theme to Titanic – and appearing on the stage in a wide ballgown, she launched into My Heart Will Go On, with the audience joining in. Well, of course that beauty had to be saved for last.
Though it wasn’t quite last: when that was done, Celine stepped out of the dress – leaving it sitting on the stage like a wigwam – and headed into the audience, climbing about halfway up the steep sides of the arena, apparently to see what the view was like for all of us. After some concluding remarks, she gave one last song – Love of my Life – and then made such a quick exit that the final round of applause was relatively short and quiet.
So, what was it like to finally see Celine Dion live? Just as wonderful as I imagined, if not more so. I’m so happy at being able to fulfil this dream, and I hope I get the chance to see her again one day. So thank you, Celine and everyone involved, for a fantastic evening!