With only six awards given out on the televised awards, it looked like there could be no big winner at the 43rd annual Juno Awards, which concluded at Winnipeg’s MTS Centre Sunday evening for the two-hour televised broadcast. The 35 awards given out the night before all went to single winners, but then Tegan and Sara won a third of them, single of the year for “Closer” and group of the year, bringing their tally to three. Arcade Fire and Serena Ryder each won two.
Without Drake, Justin Bieber, Michael Bublé, Céline Dion, Avril Lavigne, Nickelback and other big global names in attendance, the night belonged to Tegan and Sara, and Ryder. Arcade Fire pretaped their thank you for album of the year for "Reflektor" from Santiago, Chile, where they are playing Lollapalooza and gave the Junos the television premiere of an “Afterlife” performance video.
Ryder opened the show with “What I Wouldn’t Do” and was soon joined by Classifed rapping “Three Foot Tall” which became a cool live mash-up. The two were co-hosting Canada’s biggest music awards show, along with transplanted Scottish crooner Johnny Reid, who didn’t join them in song. Instead, he did the big welcome and sang a rather schmaltzy a cappella version of Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” — the local rock legends receiving the Canadian Music Hall of Fame induction latter on in the show.
The televised Juno Awards is mainly one of live performances, curiously shot with the arena in darkness but panning to many wide crowd shots, but impossible to catch glimpses of any nominees unless the camera zoomed right in — but again, it was like watching a concert, not the bright glitz of an awards show like the Oscars.
Robin Thicke — who holds a Canadian passport — canceled his appearance at the last minute after being placed on “mandatory vocal rest,” but everyone else was a go: Sarah McLachlan, Tegan and Sara, The Sheepdogs, Walk Off The Earth, Dean Brody, Gord Bamford, Brett Kissell, Matt Mays, Tim Hicks, and Travis Good. Taking a coveted spot was one international act OneRepublic.
When Tegan and Sara won for single, the Quin twins bounded onstage. “This award isn’t about the important people we’re sitting with — our parents, our managers, our best friends — it’s about you,” said Sara. “Canada has been supporting us since the 90s. Thank you so much.” Now 34, they have spent half their lives making music, starting in their early teens, showcasing at music festivals and playing in venues they were too young to get into legally.
If there was theme for the night — it was going for your goals. The awards seemed to mean a lot to everyone who won.
The show was lacking in humor — not like when Michael Bublé and Russell Peters are involved — but there were a few cute pre-taped segments, some silly curling spots with the Sheepdogs and Reid; and a bonding session between Tegan and Sara and Ryder jokingly plotting to start a Canadian girl group called The Frost Bites. Winnipeg is notorious for its sub-zero winter temperatures.
The one sore spot in the night came when the 2014 Sochi gold medalists in women’s curling announced Juno Fan Choice went to Justin Bieber and loud boos erupted. Ryder had tucked the incident in the back of her mind and when she won songwriter of the year she had some words: “I really think that Justin Bieber is an amazing musician and he deserves every bit of that award,” she said, cutting into her short allotted speech time. “He’s been working his ass off his entire life and we need to support how awesome he is. I’m not just trying to kiss ass. He’s amazing.
“Anyways, back to me…” she said, thanking her parents, and hurriedly giving shout-outs to other established Canadian songwriters, such as Jim Cuddy and Blue Rodeo, The Tragically Hip and Broken Social Scene.
Breakthrough group of the year went to A Tribe Called Red who dedicated the award to their late booking agent Paul Gourlie who died of Cystic Fibrosis last May. One of the guys from the rising electronic team, which calls their music “electric powwow,” said, “To Native youth everywhere on Turtle Island, this moment right now is proof that whatever goals you strive for in life, they’re completely attainable so strive high."
When Commander Chris Hadfield arrived on the stage — the Canadian astronaut who recorded a song in space and a music video of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” — he got the biggest applause of the night and a standing ovation. He started singing “Takin’ Care of Business,” saying he played it one night to the Russian Cosmonauts up on the International Space Station. “They loved it.”
Of Hall of Fame inductees Bachman-Turner Overdrive, the band which had a No. 1 album, "Not Fragile," in the U.S. and went on to sell more than 30 million albums worldwide, he said, “Their music inspired me. They had the raw power, the harmonies, the simple chords and yet they could foray into a song like ‘Looking Out For Number One.’ Good music is an international language even in space.”
A video tribute followed that included congratulations from Metallica, Elton John and Paul Rodgers, and original manager Bruce Allen, then BTO, circa 1974-77 incarnation — Fred Turner, Randy Bachman, Robbie Bachman and Blair Thornton — came out to a reception that eclipsed Hadfield’s. They each took a minute to honor the people who got them there.
“The four of us standing here, we took a ride around the world together that was quite incredible. The ride started here in Winnipeg,” said Bachman, before rattling off names. “If you have a dream, stick to your dream. Plan A. There is no plan B. Plan B is stick to plan A. Keep going. Aim for the sky. You might get there.”
That theme of achieving continued when Tegan and Sara won group of the year, overtaking all the other winners. This time, Tegan spoke. “When we asked our parents if we could play music instead of go to university, they were really mad at us,” she said. “And they agreed to let us do that for a couple of years and somewhere in all that we signed a record deal with Neil Young and Elliot Roberts, and Elliot Roberts told us that when we were in our 30s we’d write good music, but that our 20s were for exploring the world and experiencing heartbreak.
“And we are absolutely in our 30s and I want to say thanks to everyone who has supported us from the time we were teenagers. I don’t think very many people, and especially not us, thought two queer kids from northeast Calgary would get to here,” she laughs. “So here we are.”
The broadcast ended with the members of BTO onstage together for the first time in 20 years, aided by the Sheepdogs, Travis Good, Brett Kissel and Matt Mays. That is something that certainly no one ever thought would happen.