By Beryl Wajsman on August 8, 2016

celine.jpgOk, confession time. I haven't seen Céline Dion live in twenty years. But when a lady named Brigitte tells you she got the tickets and asks, "So Wajsman, you going?" Well, you go. Now, at least half of you will be saying to yourselves, "Who cares Wajsman! Get back to the problems we all have!" You would be wrong. As I tell a lot of activist friends, if tomorrow, all the problems of the world were solved, we would still need art and music and poetry and passion. Céline Dion delivered all that and more. It wasn't just a concert. It was a mesmerizing, seductive, singularly unique outpouring of talent laced with the maturity and authenticity that is only born out of pain. This is not just a "Queen of pop" as she is too often flippantly labeled. If you can imagine the passion of Piaf; the pain-filled grit of Joplin; the drama of Cher brought to a new height of elegance and the vocal range of Streisand all mixed together and turbo-charged, you will be approaching - just approaching mind you - who Céline Dion is, how she performed and the beauty she brings to this world. Her performance is a balm for the soul. What struck me from the first four "anthem" numbers was that the ballads she is most known for don't begin to display to her range. She is at her fullest in numbers deeply rooted in the poet-rock tradition of the Brels,Vizzotskys and Springsteens that she opened with, but done with her signature élan, style and orchestration. The soul-lifting pathos of her delivery hasn't been heard since the great French singer Monique Serf who sang under the name Barbara. Just Barbara. Her arranger Scott Bryce has to rank with Nelson Riddle and Quincy Jones. The orchestration of creating a mini-symphony with two dozen string instruments was nothing short of brilliant. And one of the highlights of the show was when she surrounded herself with about ten of her musicians - whom she justly calls her second family - all sitting on high stools and blaring out good, old-fashioned Québecois folk songs but with a modern touch and style all her own. And the Bell Centre was transformed. By the second number some 25,000 people - whether in urbane outfits or tees and shorts - behaved as if they were at Salle-Wilfrid-Pelletier even when they stood for the numerous "bravos" and sing-a-longs and waves of lit cellphones when prompted by Céline. My friends, get thee to this concert by hook or by crook. The feelings will last a lifetime. Just a word about the opening act. André-Philippe Gagnon has been one of North America's great political impersonators for a quarter-century. But last night he went through a routine of the great singers of the past fifty years from Roy Orbison (complete with shades) to Sinatra to Presley to Cash. Brilliant stuff.


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