POP: Celine Dion; Wembley Arena, London

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The Independent Culture
Celine Dion is doing her Barbra Streisand thang, chatting with the piano player between numbers and interacting with the audience, because "it's not my show, it's our show. So, did you know that I was raised in French culture?" Yes. "Did you know that I am the last of 14 children?" Yes. "Well, I bet you didn't know that I..." - I'm gay? I'm anorexic? I have both male and female sex organs? - "...that I started singing from the age of four?" Oh. That. Yes, we knew.

Of course, it's only those of us used to the "we're going to play for two hours and you can like it or fuck off" atmosphere of an Oasis gig who are sitting rigid with embarrassment as Celine rambles on. I mean, at least Oasis are honest about it. If, as Celine claims, this really is our show, are we allowed a cut of the profits? Still, the couples and families are having the time of their lives (has she covered that song? She should). They watch in hushed reverence, occasionally venturing to the lip of the stage to give her flowers. "For me?" she gasps, every time, tugging at her white, backless jumpsuit. No, love, for the multi-million- selling French-Canadian diva behind you.

Interestingly, this weekend Wembley does play host to another super-diva: Celine's label-mate, Gloria Estefan. Infinitely warmer and more likeable, Gloria is a Cuban refugee who weaves her background in and out of her work. Likewise, Streisand's story is integral to the role she plays on stage. But Celine Dion, like Mariah Carey, seems to have come out of a pod. A pod marked "ballad".

While my companion stormed out in disgust during "River Deep, Mountain High", I actually quite enjoyed it, because at least the tempo changed. And I felt quite moved during "Pour Que Tu M'aimes Encore" because it was in French so was bound to be tragic (especially rendered with hand- wrenching and brow-tugging).

Obviously, Celine Dion is a brilliant singer, technically at least. But she is far from being a great singer. She may as well be reading aloud from TV Quick for all the emotion she displays - I don't buy that "the more notes I squeeze out of one lyric, the more emotion I must feel" deal. Lesser singers, such as Madonna and Kylie Minogue, have fashioned careers from their capacity to change and take risks. Even the wearying Mariah Carey has taken one risk (a duet of "Ol' Dirty Bastard" with the Wu-Tang Clan, which was one of the singles of 1995) but Celine Dion is carved in stone. She is never, ever going to change, and that means there can be no optimism about anything she does.

Emma Forrest