To her credit, Celine Dion kept the vocal histrionics and hyper stage movements she has become known for to a minimum during her sold-out show Wednesday at the Forum, preferring instead to illustrate her evolution as an artist through singing prowess and a relaxed stage manner.
But the Canadian songstress still managed to squander opportunities to demonstrate she can go beyond her core material of flashy love songs with choral flourishes by mainly revisiting well-trod material from last year’s “Let’s Talk About Love” and the ubiquitous “Titanic” theme, “My Heart Will Go On.”
Performing in the round on a heart-shaped stage, Dion worked hard to incite a reaction from the unusually dormant and celebrity-studded crowd by effectively advancing the perf’s theme of “Love” through song and story.
Dion’s notable attempts to expand her repertoire included a duet with Carole King on “The Reason,” which she first performed with the vet on VH1’s “Divas Live” spec and can be found on the similarly titled Epic Records album, and a quartet of tunes performed in a quasi-unplugged format.
While the format has become an overused tour device to foster intimacy, its goal was aided by Dion’s take on Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” Ewan MacColl’s classic that forced down Dion’s usually high-end vocals a few keys and demonstrated her enormous note control. Other songs in the grouping didn’t come off as well.
It was also difficult to get a sense of intimacy during the evening as Dion has moved her popular roadshow from the smaller confines of 6,000-seat amphitheaters to the more cavernous 20,000-plus seat arenas where touching love songs unwittingly devolve into power ballads.
Dion’s penchant to over-reach was perhaps best illustrated when embarking on a misguided foray into ’70s music when she called the songs of the BeeGees “the greatest songs in the world” and launched into “Stayin’ Alive,” complete with rotating disco ball.
The shift was an unneeded exercise in order to segue into a video duet with the Gibb brothers, who appeared on Dion’s “Love” album. Similarly, Dion’s duet on “Tell Him” with Barbra Streisand was done via Babs-TV — tape taken from the album’s “Making of” spec. (Though a Marty Ehrlichman sighting sparked a crowd buzz that the Diva may step up).
The closing, complete with Titanic bow railings on which Dion leaned, gave the crowd exactly what they had hoped for: Dion’s signature warbling of “My Heart Will Go On” and film clips of Leonardo DiCaprio, which were met with jet noise-like screams from the females in the crowd.