Borrowed Tunes II: Neil Young Tribute Hugh’s Room, Toronto ON May 28

Some flew from Phoenix, some from California, some drove from Steeltown, but they all came for the same reason — to pay tribute to one of Canada’s most revered songwriters. The brainchild of music industry veteran Mike Roth, who was behind the first Borrowed Tunes disc back in 1994, this was no ordinary tribute show. This was a gathering of some of Canada’s finest roots musicians, many of who contributed to the Borrowed Tunes II double disc that came out earlier this year. Thirty minutes before the first guitar was strummed there was a buzz at the sold-out venue. Those who came for dinner sipped their espressos, while the "no reservation” crowd sought out a spot to stand in the back of the room; here’s where many of the musicians mingled before and after their performances while at the tables sat aging hippies trying to recapture those "old folkie days.” Musicians included vets like Tom Wilson and Luke Doucet, along with rising stars like Liam Titcomb, Pat Robitaille and the delightful duo Dala. Hemingway Corner, who were on the first Borrowed Tunes record, even reunited, playing "Tell Me Why” for the first time in 11 years and showing little rust; the honey-soaked vocals of this talented trio can still harmonise with the best of them. Young’s half-sister Astrid also made an appearance and was joined by Doucet for "Mellow My Mind” and "Powderfinger.” With heavenly voices, Adam Crossley and Asher Lenz performed a sombre version of Young’s Grammy-nominated "Philadelphia.” Melissa McClelland, wearing an emerald green dress and cowboy boots was joined by her partner in life and music, Doucet, for a unique take on "Cinnamon Girl,” marked by a healthy dose of feedback thanks to Luke’s Gretsch White Falcon that would surely have made ole Neil grin. Wilson added levity to the festivities after the intermission with his usual rabble rousing. Wearing dark sunglasses, he strummed the first few chords of "Love of the Rocks,” pretending it was a Neil Diamond tribute then played a duet of "Harvest” with McClelland, and finished by remarking "that song and my first art teacher were both in my wet dreams!” Headliner Chantal Kreviazuk flew in from California, 34 weeks pregnant, just to play. Despite a "D” note that was stuck and made her change keys for "A Man Needs a Maid,” she was at ease at the Roland and her fabulous falsetto had the Hugh’s Room faithful transfixed for this song and "Old Man.” The show closed with all 14 of the performers crammed on Hugh’s tiny stage, singing an unrehearsed, rousing rendition of "Helpless” — a fitting end to a heartfelt, homegrown homage to Mr. Young.