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July 28, 2014

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At Caesars Palace, Celine Dion is worth the wait

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Steve Marcus

Celine Dion waves as she arrives at Caesars Palace with her husband and sons in Las Vegas on Feb. 16, 2011. The singer begins a new series of shows at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace on March 15.

They say good things come to those who wait.

“They” in this instance would be Caesars Entertainment and AEG Live/Concerts West officials.

The “good thing” is the new show fronted by Celine Dion.

Celine Dion back in Vegas

Celine Dion holds her son Nelson as she waves to employees, reporters and fans after arriving at Caesars Palace with her husband and sons in Las Vegas on Feb. 16, 2011. The singer begins a new series of shows at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace on March 15. Launch slideshow »
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Celine Dion speaks to employees, reporters and fans as she arrives at Caesars Palace with her husband and sons on Feb. 16, 2011. Dion is holding her son Nelson. Her husband Rene Angelil is holding twin brother Eddy. The singer begins a new series of shows at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace on March 15.

Click to enlarge photo

Employees hold a welcome banner as Celine Dion arrives at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on Feb. 16, 2011. The singer begins a new series of shows at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace on March 15.

Click to enlarge photo

The marquee sign at Caesars Palace displays a welcome to Celine Dion in Las Vegas on Feb. 16, 2011. The singer begins a new series of shows at The Colosseum on March 15.

So it was that a couple hundred Caesars employees, scores of fans, curious oglers and assembled media reps waited for the famous Canadian songstress Wednesday afternoon and early evening. Herded into the hotel’s front entrance valet, we waited and waited, as the sun fell and the temperature dipped from comfortable to bone-chilling.

Finally, in a black Cadillac Escalade, Celine emerged to a healthy if somewhat weary cheer. It was a blend of joy and relief as she stepped from the big rig, joined as usual by her husband/manager, Rene Angelil. The couple cradled their fraternal twins, Nelson and Eddy, who are about 4 months old. Ten-year-old Rene-Charles, who has spent much of his life in Las Vegas, filled out the family photo.

An actor-for-rent fittingly dressed as Julius Caesar welcomed the family by reading a proclamation that was drowned out by cheers. A sign reading “Welcome Home Celine” was unfurled just before the family arrived. Most of those on hand had waited for at least two hours in an event that was grandiose even by Vegas standards. As Celine said in her brief address to the crowd, “We could do a show tonight, there are so many people here!”

Pity the tourists who were merely trying to valet at the hotel and had no idea there would be a celebration piloted by a guy dressed as Caesar and some Roman centurions taking place at the front entrance.

All this was, in fact, was Celine’s drop-off before she began rehearsals for her new show at The Colosseum, which opens March 15 and launches a three-year commitment with the hotel and AEG Live/Concerts West, the entertainment goliath that produces the show. But there needed to be some sort of giddy acknowledgment of the return of one of the city’s most successful artists. Celine is rare, both in her incredible gift of voice and her uncanny ability to sell seats.

“She’s on a different level, she really is,” AEG Live/Concerts West Co-CEO and President John Meglen said. “We see it in the music business in touring. You can see a good, solid arena tour. You see somebody who is out there doing really solid business. And then you see a U2 come along.”

Welcome to the different level.

“You just see the impact. You see it in the gross dollars and, you know, very few are at that level,” Meglen said, as he, too, was among those standing at the front of the hotel, checking his timepiece while waiting for the superstar to show up. “You can count them on one hand, artists who have that kind of strength.”

When asked if Celine possesses the same marketability as the top acts worldwide, specifically U2, Meglen said, “Absolutely. Sure, because you have to take the international appeal into it, and I think this market is becoming more and more of an international market every day. She has worldwide fame.”

Another in that very rare class would be Garth Brooks. But it’s likely even Brooks would need his full band, and not just the one-man show he’s been performing to sold-out audiences at Encore, to match the long string of regular sellouts Celine enjoyed during her five years at the 4,100-seat Colosseum.

This is the theater that replaced the treasured Circus Maximus showroom, built largely to accommodate Celine’s arrival, and where she played to 3 million fans from 2003 to 2007. Within the first four years of her run, money spent by those attending her shows paid for the full cost of the $95 million Colosseum.

Inarguably, fans holding tickets to Celine’s shows spend a lot of money elsewhere in the hotel.

“It’s certainly a couple hundred dollars per person,” Caesars Palace President Gary Selesner said. “It’s probably diminished some, because of the recession, but now that the economy’s beginning to come back, we think we’ll get back to numbers like that. You can feel that number when you go into the restaurants. When you look at the front desk, the occupancies are going to increase, the average room rate will increase slightly. I think she’s really a harbinger of better times ahead in Las Vegas.”

As Selesner made that comment, he motioned toward the masses with a sweep of his arm. As if he couldn’t help it, he said, “It’s a new day, so to speak.”

And one well worth waiting for.

My blog will go on: Tickets for Celine’s shows are $55, $95, $140, $175 and $250, not including taxes and fees. Call 877-423-5463 or go to Ticketmaster.com for info. … She's performing 70 shows a year for three years. The first set of 20 run from March 15 through April 17. ... The show is good for the employment of local entertainers: Thirty-one musicians perform behind Celine, many of them Las Vegas artists. … The return to live performances by Celine coincides with the strength of the Canadian dollar, which means visitors from Celine’s home country are getting a better bargain when visiting Vegas. “The Canadian dollar is now as strong as the U.S. dollar, and Canadians must feel like they hit the lottery,” Meglen said. … Speaking to Celine’s ability to almost single-handedly fund the cost of The Colosseum, he said, “We own more arenas worldwide than anyone,” he said, referring to AEG Live/Concerts West. “You can’t say that about anywhere else. Not the Staples Center, or the O2 in London, or Sprint Center in Kansas City, nowhere else is that true.” … Fun moment: The Julius Caesars guy striding over to meet Selesner, Meglen and AEG Live/Concerts West VP John Nelson. That must have been quite a summit.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.

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