Celine Dion's voice a stunner at first Milwaukee concert in 11 years at Fiserv Forum
It’s been 11 years since Céline Dion has played Milwaukee, and she went all out for the Fiserv Forum stop of her “Courage World Tour.”
Five outfits. A 17-piece band. And for a cool climax to her hour and 45-minute concert, about 50 drones with LED lights hovering around her like fireflies — and, at one point, taking formation to resemble massive wings outstretched from each of Dion’s shoulders.
But only one thing truly mattered: her voice. And as neat as those drones were, Dion’s stunning vocals during "Heart" were the night’s greatest special effect.
Not that it always fit the material Sunday. Dion's voice was too grandiose to match the band's bluesy swing for "Tous les blues sont écrits pour toi." And Dion's voice for short tributes to Freddie Mercury and Prince — via Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" and the Purple One's "Kiss," respectively — were so sanitized it lacked swagger and soul. It didn't help that the 17-piece band adjusted the songs to fit her, reducing those classic songs to schmaltzy Broadway revue numbers.
And for a fleeting moment at the start of Sunday's show, for "It's All Coming Back to Me Now," it appeared Dion might not match the bombast we remembered her for.
She sounded great, complementing her voice with dramatic hand gestures and poses, but her voice largely rested on her three backing singers for the dramatic "Baby, baby, baby" moment. But by the end of the song, Dion offered a delightful surprise, coolly unleashing some falsetto coos.
Dion's showstopping voice reached its maximum potential for a stunning "The Power of Love" while those backing singers largely took a breather (one vocalist provided a few scattered lines). And Dion did double duty on "The Prayer," pulling off not only her own splendid vocals, but channeling the operatic grandeur of her duet partner on the recording, Andrea Bocelli.
After the song, Dion's "aw shucks" expression recalled Taylor Swift's feigned shock frequently expressed earlier in her career — except it was even more ridiculous coming from a veteran superstar and one of the finest singers on the planet.
It was one of Dion's ways to connect with the crowd, as were her many moments of banter, few of which were particularly insightful, but were pleasant all the same.
But Dion was movingly emotional after she sang "Courage," the title track from her new album out this month. Before the performance Dion quickly mentioned going through her most difficult moments — a likely reference to the death of her husband and manager René Angélil in 2016 — and the powerful lyrics seemed to reinforce the struggle after his passing.
"I would be lying if I said, 'I'm fine.' I think of you at least a hundred times," she sang. " 'Cause in the echo of my voice I hear your words/Like you're still here."
"Courage don't you dare fail me now," she continued. "I need you to keep away the doubts."
There weren't any signature, rafter-reaching vocal pyrotechnics to be found in "Courage." But the performance illustrated that Dion's interpretation of the words — the vulnerability, the defiance, the simple beauty — could be just as powerful. That same thoughtfulness lifted a quietly stirring call for a brighter future at the show's end, through John Lennon's "Imagine."
And after a surprisingly stirring video segment that afforded Dion time for one of those wardrobe changes — depicting an elegant interpretive dance with a specter, another metaphor for losing a soulmate — Dion returned to the stage for Eric Carmen's "All By Myself," the band dropping out entirely at the climax to let her voice splendidly soar.
The cheering capacity crowd assured Dion she’ll never truly be alone. But at Fiserv Forum Sunday, Dion also showed, as a singer, she's still in a league of her own.
- In lieu of an opening act, party tunes like “Disco Inferno” and “Boogie Wonderland” played on the speakers as dancing fans appeared on the big screens. It was amusing, for a few minutes. But it kept going … and going. And the camera crew had to keep cutting to the same people again and again.
- Among the five outfits Dion wore Sunday was an Elvis-style sparkling silver one piece and a white, buttoned-up shirt with sleeves that look like deflated airbags, that, we found out, were detachable.
- Dion had an, um, interesting souvenir for a fan in the front — a wristband she wore during a brief cover of David Bowie's "Let’s Dance” she dabbed on her forehead, chest and butt cheeks. How much do you think that will go for on eBay?
- Sample banter: "Calm down, people. That's not that hard." (Dion, after the crowd cheered during a flashy vocal moment during "Because You Loved Me.")
The set list
1. "It's All Coming Back To Me Now"
2. "That's The Way It Is"
3. "I'm Alive"
4. "If You Asked Me To"
5. "The Power of Love"
6. "Love Can Move Mountains"
7. "Beauty and the Beast"
8. "The Prayer"
9. "You're The Voice"
10. "Tous les blues sont écrits pour toi"
11. "To Love You More"
13. "All By Myself"
14. "Because You Loved Me"
15. "Let's Dance"/"Another One Bites The Dust"/"Kiss"/"River Deep, Mountain High"/"Lady Marmalade"
16. "My Heart Will Go On"
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Contact Piet at (414) 223-5162 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @pietlevy or Facebook at facebook.com/PietLevyMJS.
Piet also talks concerts, local music and more on "TAP'd In" with Jordan Lee. Hear it at 8 a.m. Thursdays on WYMS-FM (88.9), or wherever you get your podcasts.