Well the Junos happened last night. Congratulations to Arcade Fire, who won 3 awards last night and one the night before. A much different reception up here in Canada than at this year’s Grammy awards. This tumblr account has done a great job gathering up the various negative and ignorant backlash responses to this band’s unexpected Grammy win. I think they were going in as the favourite last night, but it was still nice to see them recognized. I could probably write an entirely separate post about how I came to love this band, and maybe I will some day. Fans will recognize that I take the name of my Blog from one of the songs off of “The Suburbs”. In the meantime, here’s a well written article about them and their win. (And for the record, I am dropping the “The” in front of Arcade Fire. And I am going with ebooks over e-books, so there.)
I really enjoyed the Junos last night, maybe because I was happy with who was winning. The highlight for me included the tribute to Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Young and The Band sung by Sarah Harmer, Blue Rodeo, The Sadies, Serena Ryder and Sarah Slean. I also thought Daniel Lanois stole the show with his low-key introduction to Neil Young as he received the Allan Waters humanitarianism award. Lanois shuffled onto the stage with his notes written on the back of a creased piece of lined music paper. He started by saying “OK, what are we doing here now? Oh yeah. Neil Young.” I didn’t realize he was so funny, and it was the first time I saw him since his terrible motorcycle accident last June, and it was gratifying seeing him back to full form. Coincidentially, I just finished reading “Soul Mining, A Musical Life” by Lanois, telling his story. I like how it was written without the aid of a ghostwriter, and you can tell. There’s nothing fancy about it, just him telling some stories about his own musical philosophy and work ethic. It’s not a tell-all book, but he does tell stories about some of the big names he’s collaborated with over the years, including Brian Eno, Bob Dylan and of course U2. It’s a book by a musician, written for musicians, and some of it was over my head. It felt like spending a day following him around as little pearls of wisdom were dispensed without coaxing. The great thing with Lanois is that he doesn’t really impose his sound on others. Listening to Lanois’ own stuff, you don’t really hear it on other’s records. He’s a bit of a musical chameleon who is able to take a good band and make them better. Or maybe not better, but he is able to bring out something deeper out of what is already there. I liked the story of recording “Where the Streets have no Name” during The Joshua Tree sessions. I had heard this story before, but never from Lanois’ point of view. The timing and key changes are quite complicated, and the band was having a difficult time keeping together. Daniel Lanois stood at the front of the studio with a chalkboard and a pointer, like a grade-school teacher, with the different chord changes and time signatures mapped out. He’d point to a chord when it was time to change. Bono, normally in control, was humbled and eventually called uncle and told everyone “Just tell me when to come in.”
Still, the Junos couldn’t escape some mis-steps. Each time they came back from commercial, we were shown clips of various musicians and celebrities over the years reminding us how great a country is Canada. Do we really still suffer from such collective low self-esteem that we need Yoko Ono to tell us how we inspired “Give Peace a Chance”?
And there there’s Justin Bieber.
We couldn’t escape him, obviously. The little guy wasn’t even in attendance; he was on tour in Europe. This didn’t stop his presence from being felt. He participated via Skype in the opening skit with host Drake, and he won the people’s choice Juno and some other one. Each time there was a pre-recorded message from the Biebs giving a shout out to all the fans. This had me thinking: Did the Biebs know he won ahead of time, or did he record acceptance videos for all his categories as a precaution? I guess it doesn’t really matter. These aren’t the Oscars, after all.
The Junos ended with a crazy performance by Chromeo, a Montreal based group that were a lot of fun. This year’s Juno’s really went in the right direction: performance heavy and award light. I’d like to see them take it even further and give out all the awards the night before, and have the broadcast be a massive 3 hour concert and celebration made up of a cross-section of as many nominees as possible. Wouldn’t that be fun? You could have Contemporary Christian/Gospel nominees teamed up with Blues nominees, you could pair up classical and electronic and do something cool. Spoken Word nominees could read snippets from their work over top of musicians from the Instrumental category? Why not? And who wouldn’t enjoy hearing the Children’s Album nominees do a number with Arcade Fire?
Come on fan base! The three of us can make it happen!