By the time Hart, seated with his wife Julie Masse and their four children, climbed onto the stage to accept, the crowd was on its feet and Hart himself in tears.
"When I walked into Sarah’s arms I lost it. I couldn’t stop the tears. I didn’t expect the audience to react the way they did," says Hart near the end of a whirlwind Halifax media tour. "And it just gave me so much love, I could feel it. I’ve been out of the business for 20 years, not made a record or toured, and to be recognized by my peers was overwhelming." He didn't write a speech beforehand. "I just wanted to live in the moment. People seemed really touched by it."
It's the perfect re-introduction to Hart, a multi-platinum artist who dominated Canadian radio in the 1980s. Now that his three daughters and son are grown—he and Masse, both Quebec natives, home-schooled them in the Bahamas—he's giving music another serious go, sparked by superproducer Bob Ezrin (Kiss, Lou Reed, Alice Cooper), who caught an acoustic Hart performance at a Toronto benefit in 2016.
"I got offstage and I'd never met him before and he stood up and grabbed me by both shoulders and said 'Where have you been? It's Bob Ezrin. I said 'I know who you are.'"
Together they created Dreaming Time Again, an EP of songs that's not quite Ezrin's brand of hard rock and not quite the 80s pop Hart made his name on, but somewhere in the middle: Earnest, honest, a life lived. Songs about his 25-year relationship with Masse, his late mother, his daughter.
Bolstered by the Juno appearance, Hart's national tour will begin in the same place his first arena tour did in 1985: St. John's, Newfoundland. It hits the Scotiabank Centre on Tuesday, June 4, and you can bet you'll hear your faves (including the absolute banger "Sunglasses at Night"). "If I went to a Billy Joel show and he didn’t sing 'Piano Man,' I’d want a refund," says Hart. "As a fan you want to hear the songs you loved growing up that have the resonance for you. I haven't done them in 20 years, it’s obviously going to be fresh for me."