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Concert film takes Celine Dion’s fans on family road trip

“The Red Sox and Boston are big things in the family,’’ says Celine Dion, who calls Boston a lucky charm. She performed at TD Garden in August 2008. “The Red Sox and Boston are big things in the family,’’ says Celine Dion, who calls Boston a lucky charm. She performed at TD Garden in August 2008. (Bill Brett for The Boston Globe/File)
By Steve Morse
Globe Correspondent / February 16, 2010

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Don’t bring up statistics with Celine Dion. Don’t ask her about being the all-time best-selling female artist after having sold more than 200 million albums. Don’t ask about the 3 million people who saw her on her last world tour, “Taking Chances,’’ during which she visited five continents, 25 countries, and 93 cities.

“For statistics, talk to Rene!’’ Dion says with a laugh, referring to her husband and manager. She is much more at ease discussing the balance she now has as a wife, a mother (she and Rene Angelil have a 9-year-old son), and a performer who chooses songs based on feeling rather than a blatant nod to the charts.

The up-close-and-personal real Dion can be seen in a new concert documentary, “Celine: Through the Eyes of the World,’’ which opens a two-week run in Boston-area cinemas starting tomorrow. Music clips from the last tour, including some from her TD Garden shows, are mixed with footage of the unpretentious, Montreal-raised Dion hanging out with her family (her mother came along), greeting fans, meeting Nelson Mandela, and going everywhere from a chocolate factory in Belgium to a safari in Africa.

Dion’s next move will be to return to Las Vegas, where she played for five years at Caesars Palace before embarking on her last tour. She will open at Caesars on March 15, 2011, but it will be for 70 shows a year for three years (including a new tribute to Hollywood movies), far fewer than the 200-plus she did before. The dates will be set around her son’s school schedule (in summer and during his school vacations), proving that family, not show business, is what matters most.

Q. You said in your last show here that Boston was a lucky charm. Why is that?

A. We started the American portion of the [2008] tour there, and we rehearsed the shows there. The last tour we did was 1998, and we also started there. Rene and I are very superstitious. Boston was a lucky charm in the past, so there was no way we were not going to start the tour there. On top of being superstitious, my son, who just turned 9, has been into sports, and his favorite team is the Red Sox, which is the same for me and Rene. My son has been imitating the swing of Kevin Youkilis, and Big Papi is one of his favorites as well. . . . The Red Sox and Boston are big things in the family.

Q. You were rooted in Las Vegas for so long. What was it like to do a world tour again?

A. I have to say that it’s a totally different energy. It’s not the same as being in Las Vegas for five years. Vegas was stability. We had a wonderful theater, and by being settled you can achieve many things once you don’t have to move instruments and lighting and effects. On tour, there is less control, but you can go wilder as an artist and do different things. We also wanted to make this tour a kind of a memory and have my mom with me and my son. Let’s do a world tour and see the world as well. It also got emotional, traveling to Germany and seeing a concentration camp, and visiting with Mr. Mandela [in South Africa].

Q. What was it like to meet Mandela?

A. It was another kind of emotion. He was struggling - he’s very sick - but he has such a strong streak in him. What he represented for me was three things: He has the strength of a man, the soul of a child, and the heart of a woman, a mother. It’s very emotional to meet that man and feel all of that.

Q. You don’t just sit in hotel rooms. The movie shows you out and about. In Johannesburg you’re even teaching some local kids to sing.

A. I’m not a person who goes to clubs, and I don’t really look for parties. I’m not out there in that way. I’m the opposite of that. But this time I wanted to tour as an artist but also as a mom, a daughter, and a wife. I wanted to see the world and grow as a family. This film was not supposed to be for the public. This was supposed to be a family album, just a movie for us. But it turned out so great that Rene approached a movie company to release it.

Q. You were part of the recent Michael Jackson tribute at the Grammys. What did that mean to you?

A. I was very honored that they asked me, but it was an awkward feeling, to be honest. I knew him personally. I met him, and he came to Vegas to see my show. We talked in my dressing room, and he wanted to know about the show and how I was managing to do it. I’ve been a big fan of him all my life. I learned English because of him. In my [home] in the province of Quebec, I didn’t have a bedroom. My bedroom was in the middle of a stairway, and I had posters of Michael on the ceiling. So he was not only on my wall but on my bedroom ceiling. . . . And then all of a sudden I’m paying tribute to him at the Grammys and he’s not there.

Q. Who are some of the singers you like today?

A. One of the greatest vocalists for me is Christina Aguilera. She’s done many different styles over the years, but as a vocalist she is extremely strong. . . . And, surprisingly, I’m listening more to Lady Gaga. When she started her whole thing, I didn’t get it at all. I listened to her because I have a 9-year-old who downloads his own music. So I was hearing the lyrics in her songs and I didn’t get it. And then I saw pictures of her and I didn’t get it. But I paid attention to her at the Grammys. She went on the piano with Elton John, and I could hear her voice and she’s extremely talented. Beyoncé also did an amazing number. And Pink blew me away, too.