Air Canada Centre, Toronto. - Sep 17, 1999

JANE STEVENSON -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:59 AM ET

TORONTO -- Quebec pop diva Celine Dion's farewell-for-the-time-being tour finally arrived at the Air Canada Centre last night after being postponed in April.

And it didn't take the 31-year-old powerhouse singer very long to mention the reason for the postponement -- that her husband-manager Rene Angelil had been diagnosed with cancer.

"I'm a little bit nervous tonight," admitted Dion after a slightly tentative vocal start on her first three songs -- Let's Talk About Love, Declaration Of Love and Because You Loved Me.

"But you know if I'm here -- everything is okay."

Dion's forthright approach immediately prompted a huge round of applause from the sold-out crowd of 18,000 and brought the choked-up singer close to tears.

"The last few months -- it's been a rough, tough road -- a rocky road for Rene and I, especially for him," she continued. "He's showed so much courage, and I'm so proud of him."

The good news is that 57-year-old Angelil underwent surgery and chemotherapy and was able to make an appearance with his wife at a news conference in Montreal just last week to report he's fully recovered.

Last night, Dion had a spotlight shone on Angelil in his seat way up in the nosebleed section of the Air Canada Centre.

"Geez, you should have told me," she joked. "I have better tickets than that."

Getting serious again, Dion told the audience: "I wanted to personally say to all of you thank you so much for for your prayers and cards and positive energy -- this is the strongest medicine there is."

In Montreal last week, the couple reiterated their plans to take at least a two-year -- possibly three-year -- break from the music business to try and start a family. (Dion's performing break begins after her New Year's Eve show in Montreal.)

However, with Dion's greatest hits album coming out in November and a CBS TV special also this fall, will her fans really get the chance to miss her?

Last night, Dion's supporters seemingly couldn't get enough as she performed "in the round" on a red-lit, heart-shaped stage.

The elaborate and slickly produced show began simply with Dion rising alone out of the stage in a long, flowing white-robed dress.

But as the first song of the night, Let's Talk About Love, progressed, her nine-person band eventually rose up alongside her, while a children's choir later took the stage for the song's big ending.

Opening for Dion last night -- the first of two sold-out shows at the ACC-- was fellow Quebecer and former '80s heartthrob, Corey Hart.

Hart, a sweaty, tanned, and lithe presence who bounded around Dion's enormous stage, released a new album called Jade last fall.

But, true to form, it was his decade-old radio hits like Never Surrender and (I Wear My) Sunglasses At Night -- that latter one complete with props -- that really got the crowd going towards the end of his set.

Hart also contributed two songs to Dion's Let's Talk About Love album.

JAM! Rating: 4 out of 5

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