After sixteen years, 1,141 shows, infinite standing ovations and an unceasing fountain of kooky repartee to the very end, Celine Dion ended her record-breaking residency at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on Saturday night (June 8).
Las Vegas has been home to Dion since 2003, when she opened first run at Caesars, A New Day; that ran through 2007 and remains the highest-grossing Las Vegas residency for a musical artist (with $385.1 million earned across its 714 shows).
Her second residency, Celine, opened in 2011, and Dion drew a staggering 4.5 million fans to see her on her gilt stretch of the Strip between the two productions. Her impact is undeniable, and the vast majority of industry professionals who run Las Vegas’s musical landscape credit her for ushering in a new era of entertainment on par with the legendary reigns of Elvis Presley, the Rat Pack and Liberace. In Vegas’ cultural pantheon, she shoulders up to the King and Ol’ Blue Eyes, her golden tuxedo and soaring mezzo soprano fitting neighbors to to their own iconic voices and show suits. She’s earned her place there, and she solidified that with an epic finale that delivered a 20-song, hit-studded set that didn’t just pull at heartstrings but gently unraveled them.
Conversations in multiple languages echoed through the halls of the Colosseum as an international, sold out, sequin-clad crowd — which included Dion’s countrywoman, Shania Twain, who had a residency of her own 2012-2014 — gathered to witness Dion’s fond farewell. Before making their way to their seats, they were handed envelopes that opened to reveal a note with Dion’s flourish of a signature on the stationary: a brief letter thanks Caesars Palace and Concerts West/AEG Presents for their partnership and the crowd as well, and highlights the personal significance of the residency for Dion and her family.
“Over sixteen years ago, my dear beloved René and I shared a dream and a vision to create a spectacular show which we could stage in one destination, night after night, with the hopes that people from all over the world would travel to see,” she writes. “You didn’t disappoint us.” (Dion’s husband and manager, René Angélil, died in 2016.) “You traveled far and wide, as you’ve done tonight, to sing with us, dance with us, laugh with us, and even cry with us (tears of joy, we hope!)”
Celine noticed a guy getting up to pee so she *held the show until he came back* I’m deceased pic.twitter.com/TZFs4cpH4Q
— Hilary Hughes (@hilmonstah) June 9, 2019
Dion got her wish. From seraphic opener “The Power of Love” through her sob-inducing finale of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” she ran the emotional gamut but kept the mood as light, celebratory and silly as possible. Deeply funny and always game for a joke, she delighted in prowling across the stage and knocking out a series of high-kicks (during 2002’s “I’m Alive”) and punchlines. She pointed out that “tickets come with a seat” when she was met with yet another standing ovation. When she noticed a man heading for the door halfway through the set, she addressed him and was met with an urgent “Gotta go!” — nature called, clearly, and Dion’s slapstick response incited roars of laughter from the audience. She held the show until he returned, vamping for a full two minutes and teasing him when he made it back to his seat.
“We all waited for you! 4,300 people waited for you, man!" she exclaimed. "You know what — take your time now, it goes faster. How sweet, he said ‘Thank you so much.’ Of course, he’s broke! I mean, two tickets, you come and see this last show — of course you’re broke! Of course I’m gonna wait for you, baby, to come back!”
And though many came for the hits, from “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” to her career-defining “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic, Dion left her fans with a taste of something new, too. Courage, her 27th album, won’t arrive until November, but she performed new single “Flying On My Own” for the room and demanded they get on her level with a party worthy of any of the neighboring dance floors on the Strip. She was visibly giddy and pumped her fist once she finished: “I felt like I was in the club!” She may have shaped the scene in Vegas, but Vegas has left a lasting impression on Dion, too.
Dion will get a much-deserved rest before mounting her next endeavor, and she’s hardly slowing down for it: she’ll hit the road in September on a world tour in support of Courage, which will take her and her three sons from the city she’s called home for the better part of two decades. Her send-off was appropriately sentimental, and featured a slideshow of personal photos of her, René, and René-Charles (18) and twins Nelson and Eddy (8) that demonstrated just how much of her legend was written in Vegas. A glimpse of Dion holding a drill during the construction of the Colosseum preceded snapshots of her in an evening gown holding a young René-Charles by the hand backstage, and the last image — a photo of her and René — was followed by the entrance of her boys, who came out with a bouquet of red roses for mom.
A send-off fit for a Vegas queen, Dion’s last night at the Colosseum was a conclusion far too joyful to be considered bittersweet — but the Strip, and the standard she set there, will miss her just the same.
Celine Dion’s final Caesar Palace residency setlist:
1. "The Power of Love"
2. "That's the Way It Is"
3. "I'm Alive"
4. "Because You Loved Me"
5. "It's All Coming Back to Me"
6. "Beauty and the Beast"
7. "Pour que Tu M'Aimes Encore"
8. "You're the Voice" (John Farnham cover)
9. "Flying On My Own"
10. "All By Myself" (Eric Carmen cover)
11. "At Seventeen" (Janis Ian cover)
12. "A New Day"
14. "To Love You More"
15. "Kiss" (Prince cover)
16. "Purple Rain" (Prince cover)
17. "Love Can Move Mountains"/"River Deep, Mountain High" (Tina Turner cover) medley
18. "My Heart Will Go On"
19. "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (Judy Garland cover)