Dion appeared to us on Wednesday night from under a cloud of purple smoke, her arms spread wide, welcoming us into her bosom. She reeled off the opening lines of "Think Twice", her biggest hit (and one of the few you can sing along to, what with her new album being in French) but held the song proper back until the encore. You'd call her a tease for doing that, if it didn't imply a sexual subtext. Because Celine Dion is in no way sexual - even her attempts at heavy breathing resembled an asthma attack. (What do you expect from a woman whose very name suggests a roll-on deodorant?) Nor does she have a subtext: you may wait a long time for a decent tune, but you'll wait even longer for a sniff of soul or passion or mystery.
She tried all the same, leaning toward us for a chat, clasping a hand over her heart with all the sincerity of Oprah. You thought she might be about to disclose her deepest, darkest secrets. Only she doesn't have any. Here she was on her childhood yearnings: "When I was younger," she giggled conspiratorially, "I used to dream of being a singer and I used to ..." She paused, groping around in her memory. Used to what? Imagine the lines of cocaine and the rolled-up 100-dollar notes? The tattooed guttersnipe groupie with the stamina of a panther who would be waiting for her in the Jacuzzi at the Holiday Inn?
No. "I used to take a hairbrush and ..." And? And? "Use it as a microphone. That's right! I used to practice singing in front of the mirror with a microphone!" Crikey. Makes Hammer of the Gods look a bit tame, doesn't it? Next she wanted to tell us about her recent marriage. Few surprises there either. "It's marvellous!" she announced, and the man beside me put down his binoculars and snaked an arm around his wife's shoulders.
No sooner had you wished that Dion would stop nattering than she broke into a medley of cover versions that made you pray she'd stop singing. "Dance!" she commanded, petrifying an audience who only ever venture on to the dancefloor at weddings. But it's arrogant to expect thangs to be shaken to a take on "River Deep, Mountain High" that was soul-less enough to soundtrack a Coca-Cola ad.
You've got to acknowledge the slickness and precision of her arrangements - enormous, crashing drums, a chiming gospel piano, a wave of harmonies that you could surf on. Any one of the songs she played could have come straight off a CD. If only it weren't one of her CDs. Admittedly, that flawless voice provides a sturdy source of momentum, but only in the way that the potato is a sturdy source of carbohydrates.
We got the rest of "Think Twice" eventually, though by then it was too late. "I feel so at home," Dion gushed. "I could lie down and go to sleep". Funny, that: you thought she already had.