As anyone who saw her show-stopping performance of Queen‘s “The Show Must Go On” at the Billboard Music Awards on Sunday night has already been reminded, Celine Dion — who was honored with the ICON Award at the ceremony — is still one of the most powerful singers working today.
The Las Vegas mainstay, who wears her feelings on her sleeve — goofy! sincere! — has been even more emotional in public lately, since the death of her husband Rene Angelil in January. Twenty-four hours prior to her performance Sunday, Billboard stopped by her Las Vegas residency at Caesars Palace to check in on what she’s been up to with the newest version of her show.
The crowd — which, as one might expect, consisted primarily of middle-aged women, along with a fair amount of husbands — were as noticeably pumped as one might expect to see at the bachelorette parties that populate her Vegas neighbor Britney Spears. Throughout the evening the booze — and applause — were flowing as freely as the tears as Celine delivered incredible version of hits like “All By Myself” and “The Power of Love.” Just a day in the life for Celine, but for a first-timer’s perspective, read on for five unforgettable highlights.
1. After kicking things off with a fan montage set to “I Drove All Night,” Dion entered in a shimmering gold dress and belted out “I Surrender.” Following that number, Dion addressed the tragedy in the room, sincerely thanking fans for their support since Rene’s death. “The kids are good; I’m good,” Dion declared. On with the show.
2. Anyone who has had the pleasure of seeing Dion in interviews knows that she is a bit of a goof in the best way. That sense of humor was on display as she interacted with the crowd throughout the night, most notably when she came into the audience to take selfies with the crowd while singing. She even assisted a few people to get the perfect shot, while joking that she is definitely not a tech expert. During another moment, when some especially boisterous fans started singing along, she joked, “Don’t go as far as The Voice.”
3. One of the high points of the nearly two-hour show is a medley of “A New Day Has Come”/”That’s the Way It Is”/”I’m Alive” backed by just a small band at the front of the stage. After singing those popular songs, she spoke about how it was a good problem to have, singing a song over and over. She spoke about how lucky she felt that she had several songs that people want her to sing year after year, all the time. She and her team did a a great job making sure the show was a solid mix of both her best-known hits as well as unfamiliar treats.
4. Speaking of those treats, about three-quarters of the way through the show, Dion wanted to make sure people were ready to move. “You wanna dance?” Dion playfully asked from offstage, before emerging in a sequined green minidress and diving into a Prince tribute, absolutely slaying “Kiss” and then announcing, “All right, lovers, it’s time to dance!” and kicking off a full effects version of “Purple Rain,” complete with flashing lights and a killer guitar solo.
5. The official encore was an as-perfect-as-expected rendition of “My Heart Will Go On,” with Dion on a rising platform and special-effect lights that made it look like it was raining all around her. But after that standing ovation, Dion had one more surprise in store: She told a moving story about Rene, and how although many people don’t say “I love you,” he did to her and their children all the time. She then shared how lucky she felt to be standing here today. “I can say to you tonight I love you,” she shared, before singing a simple, gorgeous cover of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” As the curtains came down, a sweet picture of Dion hugging Angelil was projected onto the curtains. A simple message for us all: the power of love.