ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — There were no multiple winners as Michael Buble, K’naan and Johnny Reid claimed Juno Awards on Saturday, but for Jacksoul, one more trophy was plenty.
The Toronto R&B group won their third Juno as 32 of 39 categories were awarded at a non-televised gala. The win comes after the November death of Haydain Neale, who was recovering from a near-fatal traffic accident and battling lung cancer during the album’s conception.
The group’s keyboardist Ron Lopata — accepting the award alongside Neale’s wife, Michaela — urged the crowd to shout out Neale’s name in unison.
“Haydain didn’t only sing soul music, but he had a beautiful soul,” Lopata said, his voice cracking. “As you all know, he had an accident a couple years ago, and I saw him fight every day in rehab and put his whole soul into that to get better for everybody.
“And then he contracted cancer, and then he had the gumption to say I’m going to go into the studio and make a soul record . . . and if that doesn’t deserve best fricking soul recording, I don’t know what does.
“So, we miss you Haydain, we love you Haydain, and I know he would thank everybody here.”
Buble, who entered the weekend with a leading six nominations, won for pop album of the year, but was beat out in the artist of the year category by Somalian-born, Toronto-raised hip-hop artist K’naan.
“I honestly, genuinely never thought anyone would like at all or want to hear these . . . songs that are very personal,” K’naan said. “This is great, I really do appreciate this . . . This belongs to a lot of people, from Somalia to Canada. Thank you very, very, very, very much.”
The 34-year-old Buble revelled in his one win, reminiscing about his first Juno, which he won in 2004 for best new artist.
“I came to this event as a pudgy, young kid full of dreams, and I’ve come here tonight as a middle-aged, balding man whose dream is to have hair like the Biebs,” Buble said, referring to his rival in the pop album category, 16-year-old Justin Bieber. “Honest to god, I remember winning best new artist and it meant everything to me, and it still feels the same.”
K’naan’s win wasn’t the only surprising victory of the evening, which saw the bulk of the prizes handed out ahead of tonight’s televised bash (CTV).
Veteran Montreal singer Ranee Lee won vocal jazz album of the year over decorated Nanaimo, B.C., chanteuse Diana Krall (who has pocketed eight Junos over her long career) and Billy Talent triumphed over 12-time Juno winners the Tragically Hip and last year’s champions Nickelback for rock album of the year.
“Hasn’t Nickelback been nominated on this record for the last four years?” Billy Talent frontman Ben Kowalewicz said with a laugh backstage.
While the Saturday show is never the glitzy extravaganza that viewers soak up in the televised broadcast, this year’s gala was hardly short on tender, affecting moments.
Following Jacksoul’s stirring victory, Toronto double-bass maestro Joel Quarrington took the trophy for classical album of the year: solo or chamber ensemble for his Garden Scene.
The award comes months after Quarrington lost his big brother, Paul, to cancer in January. During Quarrington’s speech, he told the audience to look out for Paul Quarrington’s new posthumous album, due in May.
At the other end of the emotional spectrum, hometown favourite Amelia Curran — the only St. John’s local nominated at this year’s show, according to organizers — snagged the award for roots & traditional album of the year.
“Jeepers,” she said as she took the stage. “There’s nothing in the world I love more than my hometown, and I wanted to say: ’Welcome to St. John’s.”’
Many of the heavyweights still carry a bundle of nominations going into Sunday’s event.
Seven awards will be announced during the televised portion of this year’s show, including album of the year, single of the year and the Juno fan choice award.
Buble can still win four more awards. Likewise, all four of Toronto rapper Drake’s nominations are in categories that will be settled Sunday. Both artists will perform at Sunday’s show at Mile One Centre, along with Billy Talent — who have another three nominations — Bieber, Classified and K’naan, each of whom still possesses two nominations.
Meanwhile, organizers said that the persistent fog and wind that have kept artists and journalists stranded at airports throughout the country for days at a time would not affect today’s show.
“We’re all systems go,” said Junos spokesperson Chris McDowall on Saturday. “Everybody will be in place for the broadcast.
“The awards will go according to plan, we’re looking forward to a great show . . . and a brilliant broadcast.”