Celine Dion emerged in the nineties as one of the top selling female vocalists in history, her albums often receive mixed critical reviews and are certainly not to some people's tastes. Her vocal range is still quite stunning, even if her French albums are regarded as having more artistic merit than her more pop influenced English speaking albums. Still, as of 2004 this French-Canadian singer sold more than 175 million records.
She announced in 2002 that she would be performing in Las Vegas for three years at Caesar's Palace. Originally the contract called for 600 shows, five nights a week and would be an extravaganza of titanic proportions, even by Vegas standards, which is obviously known for all of their glitzy and extravagant stage shows where money is no object. And money was no object, to be certain; this show would be a little different than what the world had seen before.
After seeing a show done by Franco Dragone (of Cirque Du Soleil fame), Celine decided the new direction of her life, leading to the collaboration with Dragone of her "A New Day" stage show. It would require a specially designed 4000 seat soundstage (now known as The Colosseum at Caesar's Palace), the largest indoor 10 million dollar LED background screen in the world, 50 handpicked world-class dancers, all sorts of surreal and expensive stage decorations that appear and disappear through the floor using advanced staging and lighting technology, and a huge humidifying system under the stage. Also the costumes would be extremely vibrant and colorful and probably cost a fortune themselves, not to mention the many beautiful dresses, gowns and assorted costumes donned by Dion herself. All of this and Celine would sing and dance to all of her hits. It's no wonder Celine Dion garnered a reputation for being a diva, the show would eventually cost more than 300 million dollars to design, but it would eventually sell out almost every night, and the ticket costs probably went for unseen highs during it's eventual five year run (she resigned her contract and added two years for a huge amount of money in 2005).
I certainly don't need to tell you by now, but this show is best viewed in high definition. One of the truly amazing things about this two disc Blu-ray edition of "A New Day" is from the opening song 'A New Day Has Come' we realize we are in for something completely different, something excessive and we can almost see where all of that money went. She appears in a luxurious black gown with a simple spotlight on her and the rest of the stage is bathed in red, but as her performances continue the entire stage becomes a show in itself.
Trees grow up from the floor, the screen behind them constantly transforms into multi colored and phantasmagoric colorful displays as dancers surround her dressed as peacocks and a crazy-looking mime follows them around the whole show dancing like some kind of possessed freak, inspired by the music and the manic energy of the constantly gyrating male and female dancers. This show is certainly one of the strangest and most exotic live shows I've ever witnessed, and the normalness of her pop-friendly songs only adds to the freakiness of it all. I can see why the 'Beatles-Love' was such a wonderful trip to have experienced, because this Celine Dion show seems very hallucinogenic at first glance.
All of this high weirdness set to a backdrop of her somewhat empty and over-polished yet beautifully rendered songs may be more than some could actually bear and may send some of you running from the audience like Seth Rogan fleeing from the Cirque Du Soleil show after freaking out on the mushrooms. I'm sure many will certainly love this show, especially fans of Celine Dion, and I'm sure it will also actually create some fans (just don't take any mushrooms). It really is hard to imagine what it would take to pull off such a complicated show, and it certainly looks like a tremendous amount of work to make it all come together. The creators and dancers certainly deserve the standing ovation at the end. This is like nothing you've ever seen, even if you aren't a die-hard Dion fanatic. As for me, I would love to see that Beatles' show get this type of treatment.
For fans, Celine performs dead on versions of all of her best known songs and a few covers also, I will list them in order. 'A New Day Has Come', 'The Power Of Love', 'It' All Coming Back To Me Now', 'Because You Loved Me', 'To Love You More', 'I'm Alive' 'I Drove All Night', 'Seduces Me', 'If I Could', 'Pour Que Tu M'aimes Encore' 'I Surrender', 'Ammore Annascunnuto', 'All The Way', 'I've Got The World On A String', 'I Wish', 'Love Can Move Mountains', 'River Deep, Mountain High', and of course the notorious "Titanic" ballad 'My Heart Will Go On'.
All of this in a two-disc set that features a fold-out digipack and even an excellent collectible booklet that features lyrics for all of the songs along with many pictures of the show itself and is altogether excellent packaging. I hope we see more packaging like this from Sony in the near future, it really stands out.
The video doesn't advertise itself on the packaging, it simply states mastered in high definition but it appears to play on my television at 1080i, not 1080p, and is formatted at 1.78.1 (so fills the entire widescreen) and it looks outstanding. Yet on the Blu-ray website it is advertised at 1080p. It is a 50 GB release, encoded using VC-1. The black levels look great and the huge amount of colorful costumes, exotic lighting and numerous effects truly shine like they never could on the standard DVD version. It has a very film-like image and is an excellent transfer, considering it handles all of the fast movements and color transitions very well. This is the type of show that will really show you the capabilities of your system, and it looks great on my brand new 46" 1080p Sony Bravia, especially after I painstakingly calibrated it. This is the type of show that simply must be viewed in high definition because of all of the elaborate stage settings and colorful costumes. Celine Dion just looks beautiful in high definition, also. Every little detail of this extremely detailed stage show is rendered beautifully and I certainly didn't notice any real instances of edge enhancement, this is a very impressive looking transfer, particularly since some of the stage design is actually quite dark. I mean literally, 'It's All Coming Back To Me' features a thunder and lightening show and is bathed in blue light, and the Blu-ray handles it without a hitch, what would be a challenge on lesser formats.
The audio is also predictably great, it features a wonderful PCM Stereo track, but of course the real standout is the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track that features the challenging acoustics of the circular stage quite effectively, the surrounds are in constant use, not just from the musicians, but from the constant creative use of otherworldly sound effects and soundscapes. I'm telling you, this is not what I expected from a Celine Dion concert. The sounds of the audience are also reproduced very realistically and the subwoofer gets a decent workout, this is one excellent sounding disc. Fans of the French Canadian soft rock queen will be pleased.
The special features are shockingly watchable and completely fascinating from beginning to end. All are in 1080i and unlike many features these actually add to the main feature itself. In fact I truly enjoyed the documentaries more than the actual concert itself and would certainly recommend watching the special features first for casual listeners or non fans, because the stories behind what it took to get this thing going are simply mind boggling, they really went all the way with this show, although I think it was a safe bet from the beginning. Celine Dion seems so perfect for a flashy and exotic city like Vegas.
On disc one we have 'Because You Loved Me: A Tribute To The Fans' which runs 41 minutes and takes us into the lives of her very hardcore fanbase. It really is interesting watching how fanatical some of them actually are, and it's also surprising watching her interact with her fans on so many levels. The media seems to have portrayed her as rude or as some kind of cruel heartless diva with no connection to reality, but this and the other documentaries show just the opposite, she seems very down to earth and friendly. I liked her, but what I expected was someone completely different, someone more like Victoria Beckham or something.
'A New Day: All Access' is a two-hour voyage from her beautiful home to The Colosseum in her car, backstage with the dancers, and onto the performance and most of the tricks behind the complicated show. It is an outstanding feature and I'm sure anyone with a fascination with the rich and famous like myself will hugely enjoy this excellent documentary. Not only do we get a deeply personal glimpse of a person who was before somewhat inaccessible, but we get a true idea at how much hard work it is to perform a show like this five nights a week. No wonder she has to use a Saline inhaler. Anyone with even a passing interest in theater should watch this comprehensive and highly entertaining look at what it is really like behind the scenes of one of these glitzy shows. Excellent and worth the price of admission alone.
'A New Day: The Secrets' is equally watchable and well done and runs about 53 minutes. It is the history behind the show and shows you the complications that arose not just during the construction of The Colosseum but after also, how the floor was at a very difficult slope for the dancers and how the speaker system for a round venue was a sound designers worst nightmare. A very detailed account of the amount of time and huge amount of money it takes to produce one of the most expensive shows in history.
Well that wraps up a very complete and excellent Blu-ray experience that really sets the standard for future releases and is simply a wonderful release. And I am certainly no fan of Celine Dion, after watching this I have a total respect for her as a person and as an artist and I certainly highly recommend it to fans because it gives us an excellent glimpse into the world of Celine Dion, not to mention the excellent quality of the audio and video, and the excellent packaging this disc is a real winner.