Real divas don't sweat, but sometimes they cry.
Celine Dion's teary eyes looked real Monday night as she turned a packed Marine Midland Arena into a combination pity party and rollicking concert extravaganza.
"I'm a little nervous, but I want you to know that if I'm here tonight, it's because everything is all right," Dion said early in her two-hour show. The event was originally set for April but was postponed because of her husband's cancer treatment.
The night was filled with the usual arena pop show trappings, including grandiose sets, laser lights and ego-stroking chatter to go along with a virtual duet with Barbra Streisand, the Bee Gees and a mock Titanic finale.
Dion's life, however, may be the biggest factor in her concerts. The singer's problems, like her songs, are filled with drama, pathos and love. The litany of recent crises includes: a husband, Rene Angelil, recovering from cancer; a desperate attempt to have a baby, and an upcoming semi-retirement from show business.
Put it all together and you have more plot twists than "Days of Our Lives." It's enough to make Barbara Walters cry, and Dion seems to bask in such despair as she milks the turmoil for as much audience mileage as possible.
"The last few months have been pretty rocky and difficult for Rene and myself," Dion told the hushed gathering of worshipful fans. "But he's shown so much courage in getting the treatments,
and I'm so proud of him. I love him so much."
Dion made a regal entrance dressed in a flowing, white kimono on a platform that slowly rose from beneath the middle of a heart-shaped stage. At first, she stood alone in the center of the stage and belted out the opening notes of her power ballad, "Let's Talk About Love."
Soon, Dion was joined by her band. But that wasn't all. A group of youngsters ran up on stage and formed a circle around Dion as she sang. She stood in the middle, twirling and swirling like an angelic cheerleader.
That, in a nutshell, is Celine Dion's magic. She's able to take maudlin kitsch and make it seem straight from the heart to her fans.
This night wasn't all tears and ballads. Dion shed her kimono to reveal a tight pair of white slacks and silver metallic top. She vamped her way around the stage to the second number, "Declaration of Love."
Dion, willowy and rail-thin, seemed taller and larger than life. She showed a dancer's edge to her moves and was sultry and elegant.
But her booming voice was made for love songs. She brought down the house with a couple of soul-stirring ballads from the past: "Because You Loved Me" and "It's All Coming Back To Me."
Then, Dion, got back to a bouncy mood. She introduced Sabres' star Dominik Hasek, who was sitting in the crowd. "Where are you Dominator?" Dion asked. Hasek took a bow as Dion said, "I shook his hand and let me tell you something, the kid is in shape."
Dion wasn't finished with sports talk. "What about Doug Flutie and the Buffalo Bills! Whoa, what a game. We're going to the Super Bowl."
The highlight of the night was when she toned down the glamour and lights and stood center stage for a moving acoustic set. Dion's vocals were riveting as she sang what she called her personal favorites, including Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face"; "Because," by the Beatles; Eric Clapton's "Tears In Heaven"; and closed with Frank Sinatra's "All the Way."
The only lull was a labored virtual duet with a film version of Barbra Streisand on "Tell Him." Sometimes, Dion tries too hard and this one just didn't work.
Dion made up for that with a raucous tribute to the Bee Gees and "Saturday Night Fever." She changed into a gray pantsuit and turned the arena into Buffalo's biggest disco.
No concert with Celine would be complete without "My Heart Will Go On" from the hit film "Titanic." The stage set included what looked like a boat railing as Dion, dressed in a pink gown, came on board to sing the never-ending love song.
Opening act Corey Hart put on a rousing performance. The former MTV star during the mid-'80s sang his big hits, "Sunglasses at Night" and "Never Surrender."
REVIEW Celine Dion Canadian pop singer Monday night at Marine Midland Arena.