Juno Decades: Songs of the '80s Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto ON January 8

Juno Decades: Songs of the '80s Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto ON January 8
Curated by Last Gang, this was the second of the Juno Awards' star-studded tributes to the decades. It drew a capacity crowd, and sauna-like temps inside seemed as if they were in the '80s too. That aside, this evening proved much of the music of the maligned era of spandex and synth drums holds up rather well.

At times, the show resembled "A Tribute to MuchMusic," given that former VJ Christopher Ward played MC, Michael Williams chose the between set '80s tunes and Erica Ehm made an appearance. That was appropriate, given that this was the golden era of music video.

As show openers, Modern Superstitions included a version of Martha and the Muffins' classic "Echo Beach" during their set, while former Coney Hatch frontman Andy Curran fronted a band that included Blue Rodeo drummer Glenn Milchem, who gleefully pounded the skins on '80s rock tunes. After a strong rendition of his 1982 hit "Monkey Bars," Curran introduced guitar hero Rik Emmett of Triumph fame. Looking professorial, Emmett showed his vocal and guitar chops remain strong, and the band's version of Triumph anthem "Magic Power" had the crowd singing along.

After an unduly long break, the recently reunited Platinum Blonde took the stage. They're enjoying a resurgence of interest via Crystal Castles and Robert Smith's hit remake of "Not in Love," and this song kicked off the Blondes' spirited three-song set. Devoid of their video trappings, the tracks retained a real melodic strength, something the group will be able to show off when they take them back on the road. Toronto modern rock faves Chalk Circle also impressed, especially on a fiery version of T. Rex's "20th Century Boy," and they were followed by the musically strongest set of the night, from local new wave/synth pop heroes Blue Peter. Singer Paul Humphrey looked and sounded great, and the guest presence of Emm Gryner boosted their biggest hit, "Don't Walk Past."

Canada's first hip-hop star Maestro Fresh-Wes thrilled the crowd with what was basically an energized medley of his biggest '80s hits, beginning with "Let Your Backbone Slide." It was initially marred by murky sound, but Wes soon triumphed with his infectious cheerleading and inventive use of Gowan and Guess Who samples. The night closed out with the Spoons. Faithful versions of their hits "Arias and Symphonies" and the classic "Nova Heart" went over well, while new tune "End of Story" (from an imminent new album) retained their signature sound. They concluded with "Romantic Traffic," easily enlisting the audience's vocal participation.

You can see more photos from the night by clicking here.