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Music Gord Downie tribute, Barenaked Ladies reunion rule the night at Junos

Ed Robertson, right, of the Barenaked Ladies, and former member and co-founder Steven Page, left, perform during the Juno Awards in Vancouver on Sunday March 25, 2018.

DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Awards shows don’t always get tributes right. But on Sunday night, the Juno Awards nailed it – with a gorgeous homage to Gord Downie, and a terrific performance by Barenaked Ladies as they reunited with former bandmate Steven Page, after a hilarious and heartfelt induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

“Thanks to Steve for starting this journey with me and to the guys for continuing it,” said lead singer Ed Robertson in his thank-you speech. “For any kids who have a dream, this can happen – so drop out of school as soon as possible.”

The shivers-up-the-spine moment of Sunday night’s live broadcast had to be when Downie was named Artist of the Year, and his brothers Patrick and Mike walked to the stage to accept it, hand in hand, framed by the crowd on its feet, applauding.

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“All this love and support is really helping the healing. This is Gord’s award. ... It’s artist of the year but he was our man of a lifetime,” said Patrick Downie.

A tribute to Gord Downie is held at the 2018 Juno Awards in Vancouver on March 25, 2018.

KEVINLIGHT/Reuters

“He wanted a country that was equitable and inclusive and right now we have an incredible opportunity to do just that for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to come together like never before, change who we think we are, create a new country and a new Canada. And I’m telling you Gord would really like that,” said Mike Downie.

Earlier in the show, Dallas Green, who performs under the name City and Colour, and Sarah Harmer sang a stunning acoustic version of The Tragically Hip’s Bobcaygeon, as Downie’s unparalleled stage antics played out in video clips projected behind them.

“He was our king,” said Kevin Drew, introducing the tribute.

The show, which aired live on CBC, was hosted by Michael Bublé. After a stiff pre-recorded opening skit, Bublé won the audience over with a part-sentimental part-jokey opening monologue about how good it felt to be back hosting the Junos after having to pull out of last year’s show.

Host Michael Buble is shown on stage at the Juno Awards in Vancouver, Sunday, March, 25, 2018.

DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

“Sometimes when you’ve been gone a while, you wonder if you’ve lost whatever it is you might have [had] in the first place,” he said. “But honestly after standing here for forty seconds, I realize that I’m even better than I was before.”

Bublé did not refer explicitly to the reason he had to step down from hosting last year’s awards – his oldest child had been diagnosed with cancer – but he did announce officially that he and wife, Luisa Lupitano, are expecting their third child.

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Shawn Mendes, who won the Junos fan choice award Sunday night (and single of the year the previous night), was not there to accept it.

Presenters including Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly and musicians Grimes and Buffy Sainte-Marie all addressed women’s equality in the music business.

Buffy Sainte-Marie (right) and Grimes speak on stage at the 2018 Juno Awards in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, March 25, 2018.

KEVIN LIGHT/Reuters

“It’s time for change. It’s time for women to be recognized for our accomplishments and our value to this industry. It’s time for a far greater awareness of what women have done and what we’re capable of doing,” said Sainte-Marie, the night after winning Indigenous Music Album of the Year (for Medicine Songs).

“The music industry should ensure that artists and industry professionals never have to choose between a safe environment and a successful career,” said Jasmyn Burke of the band Weaves, before she and Joly presented the award for breakthrough artist to Jessie Reyez.

Later, Reyez performed a rousing version of Figures.

But nostalgia ruled the night. After Rush frontman Geddy Lee inducted BNL into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the band managed to make a long list of thank-yous entertaining by singing it, and each made brief remarks.

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“Thanks to the guys for sticking by me as I fought through cancer twice,” said Kevin Hearn. “I love you.”

The show closed with the band – including Page – performing One Week and If I Had $1,000,000, joined on stage by performers including Jann Arden, Jim Cuddy and members of Northern Touch and The Jerry Cans. And leaving a country wanting more.

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