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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Dion Packs Power Into Songs of High Emotion

August 28, 1996|RICHARD CROMELIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Celine Dion is a singer who was made for movie themes and Olympic ceremonies, settings that deliver emblematic emotions in bold strokes, without subtlety or ambiguity.

The Canadian diva's career has ascended largely on the strength of such hit film tunes as "Beauty and the Beast," "When I Fall in Love" (from "Sleepless in Seattle") and "Because You Loved Me" (from "Up Close and Personal"). The peak of her career, she told the Universal Amphitheatre audience a couple of times during her concert there on Monday, was singing at the Olympics' opening ceremonies in Atlanta.

So no one should have gone into this show expecting nuance. Dion works in the well-established framework of adult pop, but it's not the proportioned classicism and love of the lyric embodied by a Barbra Streisand.

Dion has a supple, powerful voice and an eagerness to crank it to maximum level. Musically, Monday's show was all about getting to the next crescendo. Thematically, it boiled down not to a consideration of the songs but to a celebration of Dion--both as superstar and as charming, unpretentious next-door neighbor. Those two sides didn't mesh easily, as her casual chats tended to separate the person from "the show," heightening the artificiality of her theatrical posturing.

The music ranged from pleasant to playful to grandiosely overwrought, and Dion seemed as committed to the occasional intelligent lyric as she was to the you-can-do-it banality of the Olympics song "The Power of the Dream."

And in Jim Steinman she's found a songwriter who can match her unrestrained emotionalism. Her current hit, "It's All Coming Back to Me Now," is a florid, over-the-top meeting of Meat Loaf and Springsteen, an orgy of excess that was hard not to wallow in.

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