Lately, my experience with pop culture has been like a nonstop merry-go-round. It's all a blur and there's always a chance to grab a ring - it's just a matter of actually doing it, and who knows if it'll be brass, anyway? I set up my life to maximize my pop-cultural intake, and yet I fall behind, if not in actual consumption then in the response that should result. For example, I haven't so much as found the hour I need to sit down to really, really listen in order to organize my thoughts on the lovely new Ne-Yo album or on exactly why Young Jeezy's latest disc reminds me so much of a drag show (in sum, since I'll never write the latter post: the desperate, sometimes sad need prove realness over an increasingly antiquated musical backdrop).
The point (surprise: there is one!) is that I did grab onto a brass ring Tuesday night and I'm just getting around to talking about it. Sue me! Actually, that's an understatement: brass permeated my existence for I found myself in Madison Square Garden, assaulted aurally and visually by one Céline Dion.
Chance led me there -- someone I barely knew (but now know a little better) had an extra ticket but when offered it, I said "Duh." The show was, in a phrase, impossible to ignore. Aside from a stretch in the middle that showcased brand-new tracks, I was never bored and quite often hysterical. I shot some video, but I don't think I can say differently what I already have said: the woman is amazing and the fact that my interest in her actual music hasn't increased a bit since I became obsessed with her is testament to how awestruck I am by her persona. I don't care what she sings just as long as she looks determined, comes thisclose to tears and collapses in the throes of melodrama when she's done.
It was a two-hour spectacle of moving platforms and emotion bedazzled to match her bell bottoms that confirmed what I already knew. What was new, however, was the crowd experience. A Céline Dion show is, simply, where dorks can be dorks. I heard a collective gasp rush through the stadium when she sang her first words of the night, acapella: "The whispers in the morning..." During that song, "The Power of Love," I also witnessed fist-pumping. People in my vicinity clapped to what they perceived was the beat of "Taking Chances," while those lucky enough to sit stageside waved at her as she (literally) made the rounds. Her fans were so animated, it was as though charades was their second language and they were showing appreciation for their teacher. I saw a woman with a La Famiglia box in her lap feeling the fuck out of "It's All Coming Back to Me Now." Everyone was, really, (including me -- I am not immune to the charms of that mini piece of pseudo-gothic musical theater) -- the excitement that the opening tympani brought on alone was palpable. During "Because You Loved Me," an elderly black woman with an Adelaide bun raised the roof. She would later burst out of her seat when Céline implored the room to during the set closer "Love Can Move Mountains," because she'd clearly been waiting all night. It hit me during "Because" that I could sing along as loudly as I wanted...if only I knew the words. A cover of "All By Myself" netted a standing ovation for no good reason other than nostalgia (perhaps the only force more powerful to this crowd than Céline's voice -- the combo was lethal, for sure). Pageantspeak broke out during the extended acapella intro to "My Love" ("Go guuurl!"). I don't remember what the crowd's reaction was to her cover of "We Will Rock You" because at that point, I lost all sense of...sense. Finally, it all came back to me at the top of the very last encore, when acapella vocalizing stood in for the pan flute that normally opens "My Heart Will Go On." Céline's butthole could have performed it and people would have recognized it immediately and been just as thrilled. The force of the shrieking that came with the instant recognition was nothing short of exhilarating.
It was all a nice distraction from the woman who stood next to me the whole night. Per the jeans that reached above her navel, she was a mom. Her mousy hair was pulled back in a scrunchie and she seemed particularly moved and unafraid to show it, despite her being by herself. God, why was she by herself? Were it not for the sincerely constructed emotion emanating from the stage, I might have gotten sad. But no, I was out of my league: my sappy would have just been pithy compared to Céline's. This woman's focus is impeccable.