Blogging the 2011 Juno Awards in Toronto: Part 2

by W. Andrew Powell
Arcade Fire perform at the 2011 Juno Awards in Toronto

Continued from Part 1…

After another break, Bryan Adams arrives on stage to introduce Shania Twain’s tribute video, followed by Shania coming up to receive her award. The second I spot her I have to admit I’m floored–she frankly looks stunning in a sparkling dress that makes her stand out in the crowd from six floors away. The whole way up to the stage she waves and thanks the crowd. Totally a classy, classy lady.

“I really am turning into such a sap,” she quips. “I really am proud of Canada’s talent.”

“I have more pride in what the country has created musically than I am in my own success. Honestly, I’m just more proud to be from Canada, and to be part of everything that’s happening here musically,” Shania added.

After the next break, Robbie Robertson takes the stage and congratulates the Junos on 40 years of celebrating music. Robertson introduces the “Love Letter to Toronto” tribute video, which looks at the history of music in the city.

That video, which had a lot to say about Toronto’s roots in Canada’s music scene, is followed by a group of Canadian singers taking the stage to cover notable Canadian music from the last 40 years.

Sarah Harmer performs Joni Mitchell’s “Carey” followed by Sarah Slean and Jim Cuddy doing “If You Could Read My Mind”.

The highlight for me though is Dallas Green/City and Colour singing Neil Young’s “Old Man”. It’s a stunning, stunning cover that does the original true justice.

After that Kevin Hearn performs “The Genetic Method” by The Band?, and at this point it’s worth mentioning that the backing band is actually The Sadies, plus Derek Miller, who then help all of the performers, including a few extra people like Serena Ryder, sing The Band’s “The Shape I’m In”

One more break down and the next award is being presented for New Artist of the Year. Meaghan Smith wins to polite applause, but you can tell the audience is not here for “unknowns”. That’s perhaps the biggest shame of the night since a lot of awards were handed out last night, at the Juno gala dinner and awards, and some of them should have been presented on air during this telecast. Amidst the 2+ hour-long show, you would think a little more time could go to promoting new artists.

Drake is back on stage next with a little video about his hunt for “old money” (instead of the usual plethora of young money seen in music videos). The bit is not only funny, but it’s also a great moment for Drake, and it kind of makes me want to see Drake doing something with the old money crew again, who are in the audience at the end of the video.

The Barenaked Ladies bring us back from the break and they’re introducing Single of the Year and talking about CD sales. It’s frankly one of the least funny moments of the night and makes me winch, but in the end they hand over Single of the Year to Young Artists For Haiti for “Wavin’ Flag”. Very well deserved win, once again.

Johnny Reid takes the stage to perform his single, “Change the World” and the stage looks brilliant. He pulls off a solid performance, but this is also one of those moments where I don’t get why Reid is being labelled as a “country” artist.

Billy Talent then step up to talk about MusicCounts, mentioning how proud they are to be in the room with Neil Young. So far the night is basically a Neil Young love-in, but I’m not exactly complaining.

At the same time, Drake hasn’t been around a lot, which begs the question why he was labelled as the “host” of the night. Like the Oscars, and other shows before it, he has been on stage only a very brief time tonight. I’m not exactly complaining, but it seems opportunist, especially with all the girls who clearly showed up just for Drake.

Strangely enough, Yoko Ono is on the video screen for something, but the audio is so bad I don’t have a clue what she’s saying. All I hear are echoes.

Broken Social Scene follow this with a performance of “World Sick” which is easily the second best performance of the night after the group performance.

Pop Album of the Year goes to Justin Bieber. Yes, he’s adorable, I get it. My ears are bleeding once more from all the screaming girls who start making ear-shattering noises the second they hear the first syllable of his name.

The Neil Young tribute takes over at this point, who is attending the awards for the first time in literally decades. Daniel Lanois steps up and presents the Allan Waters Humanitarian Award to Young, who provides a great commentary, ending by saying: “Look inside yourself and the eyes of your friends and you’ll find the secret of how to be a humanitarian.”

We’re drawing close to the end of the night as Arcade Fire nail their performance of “Rococo”. While I’m not a big fan of them as a band, there’s no denying this is an absolutely killer, killer performance–the best of the night.

As the band clears the stage the award for Artist of the Year is handed out and, to no one’s surprise, Neil Young wins, commenting to general laughter, “What year is this?”

The end is very near, but it’s been a very good night. Certainly one of the better Juno Awards in years. Drake could have been on stage more, and there could have been more awards handed out too, but the night didn’t drag and the show seems to be finishing in good time.

Chromeo is up on stage with his leggy backup singers and a nine-piece orchestra to perform “Hot Mess” and I’m loving it, but the crowd is not. Looking out over the ACC I barely see anyone moving.

The night ends with Arcade Fire winning Album of the Year, which gives them four Junos this year, including their win last night at the gala dinner.

Now that the night is over I have to admit I did enjoy the show, but it wasn’t exactly a wild adventure through the Canadian musical landscape. The show hit all the notes you would expect, and delivered bang for its buck, but there weren’t enough moments that got people’s butts out of their seats, and the awards were as-expected for the industry (which will leave average music fans probably a tad disappointed).

Notably, Drake also didn’t win a single award again this year. I’m not a fan, and I frankly don’t think his music is all that impressive, but it is somewhat strange considering what a huge star he is internationally. I can’t stand when artists win awards just because they’re famous, but I also can’t help but question if the music industry is making another mistake by ignoring popular artists.

In the end, I suppose Drake has his wads of cash to dry his sad eyes.

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