A lot has happened in the 11 years since Celine Dion last performed in the Twin Cities, a lull that ended with her sold-out concert Friday night at Target Center.
In her personal life, the French Canadian superstar became a mom to twin boys in 2010 but then lost her husband and manager, René Angélil, to cancer in 2016. In her professional life, she faded from the charts and Top 40 radio — after landing such 1990s megahits as “Because You Loved Me” and the “Titanic” theme “My Heart Will Go On” — but she gained new ground as one of the biggest attractions in Las Vegas with a residency at Caesars Palace.
Amid all those ups and downs, the world around her has also been topsy-turvy, so a little melodramatic balladry and light pop fluff with a lot of riveting vocal power and classic diva showmanship seemed like a welcome distraction.
Dion, 51, offered all that along with a hi-fi, new stage production as she brought her Courage World Tour to Minneapolis, only the 10th stop on a 122-show trek that continues for another year.
The 14,000 or so fans were unusually pumped and giddy. Their excitement was evident even during the preshow DJ dance party, in which Bee Gees and Earth, Wind & Fire classics sparked hordes of sequined shirts, silk scarves and tight pants spinning to the music. Some of the women in the crowd were also as fancily dressed.
When Celine walked out in a solitary spotlight before the opening song “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now,” she drove fans wild with a simple fist pump, like something out of the last WWE Raw wrestling event at the arena.
“It’s been more than 10 years since we were last here,” the star said one song later. “I mean come on, that’s way too long. We’re gonna fix it.”
All kinds of random comparisons came up in the two-hour performance that ensued.
Dion talked enough between songs and delivered enough costume changes (five) to keep up with Cher. She started out in a sparkly red, high-slit dress, ended in a giant, white Met Gala-worthy ballgown, and in between wore a tuxedo shirt with sleeves big and billowy enough to pass for white sleeping bags.
“That’s all that’s coming off,” she quipped after tearing those sleeves off following “The Prayer,” which she convincingly delivered without duet partner Andrea Bocelli. “That’s called a quick change.”
Her wardrobe breaks were filled in with video montages that looked like shelved Chanel or Obsession perfume TV ads. Her corny, cackled one-liners suggested she could head to the Catskills after her Vegas residency wraps. And her mash-up of “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Lady Marmalade,” Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” and Prince’s “Kiss” before the encore felt a whole lot like a clunky amusement-park variety show. Funky, she is not.
On the music front, Dion’s elaborate/grandiose string arrangements, hardworking backup singers and (for better or worse) utter lack of looseness and spontaneity often recalled a Neil Diamond performance.
“To Love You More,” for instance, was overflowing with lush violin and harmonious voices in a manner that matched the puffiness of those detachable shirtsleeves. You can thus imagine how mushy her version of Eric Carmen’s “All by Myself” also was.
More effectively, Dion’s new single, “Courage” proved to be an against-all-odds, arms-wide-open power ballad that stood out as one of the mid-show highlights. And her version of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” which ended the concert after “My Heart Goes On,” was fully moving and of-the-moment.
Thanks probably to the regularity of her Las Vegas residency — and maybe to the fact that she started her career so young (13), and is thus still more agile than many of her veteran peers — Dion sang with all the gusto and precision that fans expected. She nailed the most megasized notes in “The Power of Love” and “Because You Loved Me” and delivered impressive new vocal aerobics in another new song, “Lying Down.”
With a voice like that, Dion really didn’t need all that much courage to finally go back on tour.