It’s not unusual to spot a celebrity or some overzealous fan behavior at a big Las Vegas concert event, but everything that happened Saturday night at Celine Dion’s grand finale at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace seemed surreal.
The theater felt alive with a crackling sense of anticipation as we took our seats, then Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis sat right next to us. (A few songs into the show, superstar DJ Tiësto arrived and sat in front of us. He would end up partying with Dion at Omnia afterward.) Later in the show, several audience members spilled into the aisles to get closer to the stage, and one darting fan crashed down on top of us when he collided with a security team member. You don’t expect a makeshift moshpit when you go to a Celine Dion show.
But the most surreal feeling stemmed from the simple fact that she might not sing at the Colosseum ever again. Saturday’s show stayed close to her standard Caesars set list—with standing ovations coming after her still-incredible vocals on “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” and “All by Myself”—but Dion also debuted a new dance anthem, “Flying on My Own,” from her forthcoming 27th studio album, Courage, and closed with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” while images of her family and late husband/manager René Angélil appeared onscreen.
Dion will hit the road for a world tour in September, and Las Vegas will likely be among the 50 cities she visits, but it won’t be like her Colosseum shows. No Vegas show will ever be like this one. Dion and Angélil, with their partners at Caesars and AEG, have rightfully been given credit for launching the modern headlining residency phenomenon in Las Vegas, but no other artist has been able to duplicate her Vegas success.
The numbers spell it out. Since the debut of A New Day in 2003, Dion performed 1,141 times at the Colosseum for more than 4.5 million fans. That original residency ended up at 717 shows across almost five years, closing at the end of 2007. That pencils out to an average of 156 shows per year, a far cry from the current average of 30-45 concerts per year that most of today’s “residents” play on the Strip. Dion was always here, always onstage, and that was the plan from the very beginning.
The Colosseum, which seats 4,300, was built for her show and without much consideration for other programming. Its size was set at twice the capacity of a Cirque du Soleil production theater because it would host only one show per night. It’s unimaginable in today’s entertainment industry environment that a venue of that scale would be constructed for one superstar, on the Strip or anywhere else.
That’s why the headlines declared Dion was returning to save a recession-battered Las Vegas when she came back in 2011 for her second residency. And that’s why it’s assumed she’ll be back on the Strip after the tour, or whenever she’s ready to return to her Vegas throne. No one else will be sitting in it.