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Stick to the singing

Junos performances and set shine during prime time; jokes needed to go back to the drawing board

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Serena Ryder and Classified perform during the Juno Awards in Winnipeg, Sunday, March 30, 2014.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS Enlarge Image

Serena Ryder and Classified perform during the Juno Awards in Winnipeg, Sunday, March 30, 2014.

AS awards-show telecasts go, The 2014 Juno Awards was, well, another awards-show telecast.

Buoyed by some crackling performances and dressed up nicely by a killer set, but dragged back down by dry-as-dust category intros, acceptance speeches and rather tepid attempts at comedy, Sunday night's two-hour broadcast was a decidedly middle-of-the-road affair.

The show opened promisingly with co-hosts Serena Ryder and Classified sharing the stage for an energetic opening number, and the crowd was pumped up by fellow co-host Johnny Reid's cheap-applause invocation of the Jets, Bombers and pretty much anybody from Winnipeg who ever got famous in the music biz.

Tegan and Sara were the show's first award winners, for single of the year (Closer), and Walk Off the Earth followed with a rootsy, old-time-radio-flavoured performance.

The show's first hiccup occurred during Classified's introduction of the Olympic gold-medal-winning Jennifer Jones curling team, when he went off script and told the Winnipeg crowd to "make some (high-end expletive) noise!"

Jones and her teammates received the obligatory standing ovation, but things took an unexpected turn when the winner of the award they were presenting -- Justin Bieber in the Fan Choice Award category -- was booed heartily by about half the crowd.

After a very engaging performance by Matt Mays, Ryder shifted from co-host to trophy winner when she took the stage to accept the Juno for songwriter of the year. She started amusingly -- "Oh, my gosh, my pants are falling down!" -- but then lapsed into bleep-worthy language for a few moments, chastised the crowd for booing Bieber ("We need to support how awesome he is"), and rambled on until she was played off the stage for taking too long.

Ryder was featured in a mostly laugh-less taped gag in which she and Tegan and Sara discussed starting an all-female Canadian supergroup (they planned to sing about cold weather), and then Reid introduced a lovely performance by Sarah McLachlan (who later returned to plug the MusiCounts charitable effort).

Saint-Boniface MP Shelly Glover, accompanied by the Sadies, presented the Breakthrough Group of the Year award to A Tribe Called Red, and then Tegan and Sara took the stage to perform their Juno-winning single. After McLachlan's MusiCounts pitch, One Republic delivered another noteworthy performance.

One of the evening's highlights was Cmdr. Chris Hadfield's introduction of Juno Hall of Famers Bachman-Turner Overdrive -- he opened with an a capella rendering of a couple of lines from Takin' Care of Business, then revealed he played the song one night for the Russian cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station ("They loved it!").

The video tribute to BTO was impressive, including congratulatory greetings from Metallica, Elton John and Paul Rodgers of Bad Company. Randy Bachman wrapped up a long-ish, every-member acceptance speech by offering a pithy bit of wisdom to kids dreaming of a career in music: "There is no Plan B. Plan B is stick to Plan A."

The Jones rink showed up again, in a taped gag that involved "curling" Reid onto the stage -- while corny, it was probably the only smile-worthy joke of the evening.

Country music got only a brief nod during the telecast, in the form of a Dean Brody/Brett Kissel/Gord Bamford medley, and then things rushed to a conclusion with the last two awards (including an appearance by Chantal Kreviazuk and husband Raine Maida as presenters) and a musical tribute to BTO by the Sheepdogs, BTO and assorted others.

Good performances; below-average banter and jokery.

The local CTV affiliate's attempt at a red-carpet pre-awards show was a well-intended effort, but its timing left much to be desired.

The red carpet outside the MTS Centre was tented and heated -- good news for celebs, not so much for sales of Canada Goose parkas -- which made the pre-show excitement comfortable for crimson-rug-traversing nominees and presenters, as well as fans and assorted media types.

But the fact the red-carpet special aired from 6:30 to 7 p.m. and then disappeared so as not to disrupt the CTV network's simulcast of CBS's The Amazing Race meant there was no momentum from preshow to show. An hour-long gap before the Junos show began rendered CTV Winnipeg's enthusiastic effort mostly meaningless.

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @BradOswald

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 31, 2014 A1

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