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Celine Dion Loves Fans 'Back to Life' at Intimate NYC Show: Review

Celine Dion performs at An Intimate Evening With Celine Dion at The Edison Ballroom on October 29, 2013 in New York City.
Laura Cavanaugh/FilmMagic

Watching Celine Dion play to a crowd one-twentieth of the size she sells out some 100 nights a year in Las Vegas Tuesday night was not unlike watching LeBron James nail an hour's worth of slam dunks during a private session.

Dion performed an intimate concert for Pandora Presents at Manhattan's Edison Ballroom, attended mostly by Pandora listeners from the New York Tri-State area who've created a Celine Dion station or thumbed-up one of her songs. The invite-only audience was a noticeable fraction of the venue's 1,200-person capacity, making it the smallest U.S. concert Dion has performed in decades, if not ever. The gig was in support of new album "Loved Me Back To Life" (out Nov. 5), but it was really a chance to showcase many of her biggest hits to a room full of hardcore fans who would never otherwise be within an un-zoomed Instagram's distance from the diva.

Celine Dion Shows Edge, and Tries Out New
Characters, on 'Loved Me Back to Life'

Dion opened with a one-two punch of "It's All Coming Back To Me Now/The Power Of Love" medley, immediately followed by other hits like the rarely performed "Where Does My Heart Beat Now" and the venerable "Because You Loved Me," during which Dion invited the crowd to join her on the last chorus. She unpacked a few of her Vegas theatrics later on for show staples like "River Deep, Mountain High" and her hit cover of Eric Carmen's "All By Myself," attacking each high note with an athletic precision. She Catholic-crossed herself with a fist at one point after nailing a particularly epic melodic lift, and pounded on an invisible drum kit for another, making liberal use of the diva finger wave for every melismatic phrase.

Mid-way through the set, Dion thanked the crowd for supporting her over the years and being patient for "Loved Me Back To Life," her first English-language album in six years, prompting one fan to shout "That's too long!" Dion politely retorted, in her welcoming French-Canadian inflection, "Well I had two babies and a French album and a Vegas show – I've been busy!"

Dion played three selections from the album, including first single "Loved Me Back To Life," whose Sia-penned vocal and lyrics were already a favorite among the crowd. Fans swayed their hands up and down during the dramatic chorus, a movement more common at a Skrillex show than something you'd expect from Celine Dion. Next was her rendition of "Water And A Flame," a duet originally recorded by Daniel Merriweather and Adele that Dion impressively turns into her own gin-soaked breakup ballad. A cover of Janis Ian's "At Seventeen" was slightly less well-received, accompanied by a high volume of crowd chatter more akin to an indie-rock opener at Webster Hall.

Luckily, Dion knew how to earn the crowd's attention, revisiting 1997's ridiculously pedigreed power ballad "The Reason" (written by Carole King, produced by George Martin) to surprisingly rapturous response. Many fans sung along to every word of the opener to "Let's Talk About Love," Dion's second best-selling album, despite its never being released as an official single or performed during her Vegas show.

But she saved her most enthralling moment for the very end, encoring with the anticipated "My Heart Will Go On." It's a song that Dion has performed thousands of times on world tours and a decade of shows at the Colosseum in Caesars Palace, an historic run that has grossed nearly a half-billion dollars in ticket sales since March 2003. But Dion made the Pandora performance unique with a flourish that could only be appreciated from the hushed volume of a small club. By re-creating the "Titanic" theme's iconic flute introduction using just her voice, Dion brought a pin-drop silence to a room that had been buzzing just seconds prior. For a song that's been so inescapable for some 16 years, Dion could still bring new layers of depth and emotion – no chest-thumping required.

Celine's Setlist:

It's All Coming Back To Me Now
The Power of Love
Where Does My Heart Beat Now
Because You Loved Me
The Reason
Water and a Flame
Loved Me Back To Life
At Seventeen
All By Myself
Love Can Move Mountains
River Deep Mountain High
My Heart Will Go On