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Neil Young honoured on Juno's first night

Neil Young poses with his Juno award for Adult Alternative Album of the Year at the 2011 Juno gala dinner and awards show in Toronto Saturday, March 26, 2011.

Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press

Neil Young appeared at the Juno Awards for the first time in nearly three decades Saturday to accept the adult alternative album of the year prize at a dinner gala where the first batch of trophies was handed out.

The 65-year-old Toronto-born rock legend received a standing ovation from the assembled crowd at Toronto's Allstream Centre, where 32 of 40 awards were presented ahead of Sunday's televised Juno show.

Young - who six weeks ago won his first career Grammy for his music (he'd previously won a packaging Grammy) - said backstage that he last appeared at the Junos for his induction into the hall of fame in 1982, and didn't intend to stay away for so long.

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"There was really no reason why I didn't get on with it," said Young, clad all in black except for a vivid red scarf. "I'm not really an awards kind of guy that much. But it's great to get one. It's a great honour.

"I appreciate it. The older I get, the more appreciative I am."

Arcade Fire, Daniel Lanois, Matthew Good, Deadmau5 and country-pop crossover crooner Johnny Reid also nabbed trophies Saturday, with the remaining prizes set to be distributed during Sunday's live broadcast at Toronto's Air Canada Centre.

In one of the biggest upsets of the night, leading nominee Drake - the 24-year-old Toronto hip-hopper who will host Sunday's show and entered the weekend with six nods - lost out to cerebral London, Ont., rapper Shad for rap recording of the year.

"Wow. I'm very surprised. This is like the Emmy going to Theo's friend Cockroach or something," said Shad, making a Cosby Show reference while clad in a light blue oxford shirt, a cardigan and a blue toque.

"Yeah, I was not expecting this at all. ... With or without this, I feel like a very lucky person to get to make music.

"It's been fantastic. Thank you guys."

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While Drake went home empty-handed Saturday, he'll still have plenty of opportunities to build on his career tally of two Junos - he's nominated in another five categories at Sunday's show.

Arcade Fire, meanwhile, took the award for alternative album of the year - the band's third Juno - for their third record, The Suburbs. The band stunned the music world last month at the Grammys when they claimed that show's top prize, album of the year.

"Thank you very much," said the band's Texas-raised frontman, Win Butler, as the group took the Juno stage. "We're in such a great category, and Broken Social Scene, we opened up for (them) like a million times. It's an amazing band."

"Thank you so much for everyone. I'm just proud to be pretending to be Canadian for almost 10 years now."

Young won for his album, Le Noise, which also helped the Quebec-born, Hamilton-raised Lanois nab the Jack Richardson producer of the year award. The prizes brought Young's career Juno tally up to six, while Lanois has won eight.

As Young surfaced backstage, a reporter told him she was unclear on the exact meaning of "adult alternative."

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"That's what I'm wondering," said Young, a sly smile spreading across his face. "But that's OK too, you know.

"I'm an adult. There's no alternative. That's me."

When Lanois won his award later, he demanded that Young return to the stage. Young acquiesced, and told the audience about how the two recorded the album together in Silver Lake, Calif., in "this old Hollywood mansion full of Canadians."

"We collaborated our asses off, right?" said Young, who will receive an award for his philanthropy on Sunday. "That was a very Canadian experience with our Canadian engineer, Canadian cinematographer, Canadian Margaret was there, cooking Canadian food."

"This is a real producer here. ... I was lucky. I was blessed to work with Dan and we're going to do something in the future. The future's a very big place for us."

They weren't the only winners who will now have to deal with a crowded trophy case.

Deadmau5 - the DJ from Niagara Falls, Ont., whose real name is Joel Zimmerman - took his fourth career trophy for dance recording of the year while Good also won his fourth Juno, for rock album of the year. Good, who has expressed his disdain for the show in the past, wasn't present to claim his award.

On the other end of the experience spectrum, Caribou - the Dundas, Ont., composer otherwise known as Dan Snaith - won the first-ever Juno for electronic album of the year for his critically acclaimed record, Swim, while unsigned 18-year-old Edmonton singer Quanteisha Benjamin snagged the award for R&B/soul recording of the year for Stars.

"I'm so shocked," said a flustered Benjamin as she took the stage. "I didn't even ask my mom if I had anything in my teeth. I didn't even have time. I think my slip was showing in the back too!

"I want to thank my mom for putting up with me for 18 years. Just to give everybody a heads up, I'm still looking for a manager and I'm also looking for a label - so if you're interested, call me!"

Other first-time winners included Polaris Music Prize-winning indie-rock outfit Karkwa (francophone album of the year), Vancouver seven-piece Fond of Tigers (instrumental album of the year) and Ottawa's Kellylee Evans, who won best vocal jazz album and then - clearly thrilled - reeled off a list of thank-yous that extended to her fans, her make-up artists, her sound and lights crews and "anybody anywhere who's ever been nice to me even once."

Many of the marquee categories were scheduled to be decided on Sunday, including awards for fan choice, best album, artist, group, new artist, songwriter and pop album of the year.

Seventeen-year-old teen-pop titan Justin Bieber holds all four of his nominations in the telecast (probably not a coincidence, given the potential ratings boost represented by his millions of tween devotees), while Abbotsford, B.C., pop outfit Hedley, Reid and Arcade Fire also still hold multiple nominations going into Sunday's show.

But while he might have more acceptance speeches ahead of him, Reid was emotional as he accepted his second career Juno on Saturday.

"I recorded this record for one reason," Reid said of his double-platinum disc, A Place Called Love.

"Two years ago, I lost my grandmother, and I couldn't help think to myself where it was my granny went when I watched her leave this world. A short time after that, my fourth child came into the world, a baby girl, and I couldn't help but ask myself where she came from. The answer, for me, was a place called love.

"I'm so proud to be part of something so much bigger than myself."

Sunday's broadcast on CTV will feature performances by Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire, Sarah McLachlan, Reid and Chromeo, with scheduled appearances by Young, Shania Twain and Randy Bachman.

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