The crowd of 4,100 rose to its feet and roared as Celine Dion stood on the center of the Caesars Palace stage on Aug. 27 in her first show in over a year. It was the first of many standing ovations, and she hadn't even sang a song yet.
The "My Heart Will Go On" songstress was hugely emotional as she returned to the Las Vegas stage for the first time since taking an indefinite hiatus to care for her ailing husband, Rene Angelil, as he battles throat cancer. She was seen often taking deep breaths and trying to hold herself together. The supportive crowd helped her out.
"Tonight's show is very personal to me," she told the crowd midway though the 100-minute show. "You know it's always good when we come back after being away but I must tell you, it's really good to be back, especially tonight. You know I have missed you very much, your applause, your cheers. But, I did not miss your love because I knew it was with me."
She continued, "You know I have said it many times on that stage before: you were with me, stayed with me and now, once again, you are still here."
Celine's voice showed no ill effects of her time off, sounding as fluid as ever as she blew through her personal chart toppers and a handful of cover songs. The show, though, carried a different air than the past. In the middle of singing "I'm Alive," she shouted into the microphone, "I love you, Rene." The crowd enthusiastically clapped in agreement with all references and images shown of her husband.
In a press conference prior to the show, she told reporters that she wasn't sure if she was ready for the evening at the Colosseum.
"I don't think right now I'm not on top of anything. I'm trying to be very grounded," she said. "I'm trying to stay as grounded as possible and not to lose it because my husband needs me, and I want to show my children that this is a part of life and I got their backs. We got this, we're doing this, we're okay."
While her 4-year-old twins Nelson and Eddie are still too young to know what's going on with their father, the same can't be said for Celine and Rene's eldest child, Rene Charles, 14.
"I'm trying really hard to show my children that sickness and things happen in life. You cannot be crying and be depressed and consistently talk about, 'Oh my God,'" she said. "Rene Charles is going to be 15 years old soon. He's a wonderful young man. He's entered his teenage years and sometimes we can go really crazy, for some teenagers, but so far so good. I have tremendous respect for my oldest, Rene Charles, because he's showing strength to see his dad this way because he's been his anchor. When he was younger he knew his dad was older but they bonded a lot. I'm sure it's hard for him."
Because of her husband's battle and emotional nature of her songs, the ballads now have a new meaning.
"To me they will become different songs. To you, maybe not. A record is a record, a live performance is a live performance," she said. "The words will become alive more than ever before."