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Celine Dion brought her Courage tour to Jacksonville last night – her first concert in Jacksonville, her first concert of the year, and her first concert of the decade – and it was first rate in every way.

No one doubts that she is a musical icon, but to hear her voice in person is an entirely new experience. Entering the stage with It’s All Coming Back to Me Now her voice filled the entire arena. Wearing a beautiful red sequin dress with a high thigh cut, she looked incredible – the muscles in her arms and legs visible. She immediately connected with her fans, who completely filled the arena, and had a conversation with us, making us feel as if she were speaking directly to each one of us. Celine proved I’m Alive as she danced and worked the entire stage singing to and with her fans who were all on their feet. After The Power of Love, Celine made a quick costume change and appeared in a tuxedo pant suit with huge billowing sleeves, which she later removed on stage. Again talking with her fans, she instructed on how the fans should sing along with You’re the Voice interjecting much humor.

One of two specific highlights of the evening for me personally was Celine’s Tous les blues sont ecrit pour toi (All blues are written for you). Her vocal range on this blues number was beyond belief and her interpretation of the music was magical, making you feel the emotion of every note and nuance – and the fans reacted with thunderous applause that went on and on. She seemed genuinely surprised by the reaction of the audience, but the standing ovation she received was well deserved. After singing Courage from her new album of the same name, she left the stage and my second favorite moment of the night began. A video played on the enormous screen at the back of the stage of Celine and a male partner performing a moving modern dance of meeting, falling in love, and then the loss of her partner, ending with her on her knees, fingers splayed across her face and eyes filled with tears. Her dance movements were exquisite, but more importantly, there was no doubt that the story was her life story that she was sharing with all of us. I was brought to tears.

After her dance video, Celine returned to the stage in a gorgeous black lace full length gown to sing All By Myself, leading us onward on her life story. She then introduced a second song from her new album, Imperfections, which could easily become a theme song for each and every one of us. Following with The Prayer (which she previously recorded with Andrea Bocelli) and Because I Loved You, Celine closed her set with a medley of Let’s Dance/Another One Bites the Dust/Kiss/River Deep, Mountain High/Lady Marmalade.

The audience was not going to allow Celine to stop. Returning to the stage, she delivered My Heart Will Go On as a fitting remark of where her life is now, and then finished the evening with John Lennon’s Imagine.

During the early part of the concert, Celine commented that after all the years of touring and producing albums, we all know her. Perhaps we do, but after seeing and hearing her in person and following her life through her song selections, we certainly “feel” her better.

Make sure you see Celine Dion perform live each and every time you have the opportunity, you will not regret it.

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