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JIMMY AT ROCK FEST RIO – TBL REPORT BY MARK ARCHER

8 December 2009 19,338 views 2 Comments

jimmy-page-chats-to-george-israel-photo-by-mark-archer

Jimmy with George Israel -photo by Mark Archer

Jimmy Page at Rock Fest

The British School, Urca, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Saturday 28th November 2009

On The Spot Report for Tight But Loose

By Mark Archer

 

Imagine my surprise when I learned that Jimmy Page would be visiting my school, not only because such personal appearances are rare for him, but also because I happen to be his No. 1 fan (at least in my own mind!). After all when I was hanging out by the back entrance of The Hammersmith Odeon, London in 1984 shivering in the cold and hoping to catch a glimpse of Jimmy after a Firm show there, little did I think I would be shaking his hand 25 years later in, er…Brazil – bizarre but it was well worth the wait.

 

The British School’s Urca site in Rio de Janeiro hosted and co-organised with Task Brasil a fundraising concert for Casa Jimmy. This is a house for abandoned street children and pregnant teenagers situated in the Santa Teresa neighbourhood of Rio. Jimmy Page was the guest of honour at the concert and he watched performances by bands made up of students, ex-students and teachers of The British School and also performances by Brazilian musicians, Pepeu Gomes the guitarist formerly of the legendary group, Novos Baianos and George Israel of Kid Abelha.

 

The purpose of the show was not only to raise money (R$ 38 000 was the final figure) for Casa Jimmy but also to raise awareness of the charity’s achievements to date. My school had already been raising money for Casa Jimmy for a couple of years via non-uniform days and we had also been taking our students there once a year to meet the kids that live there. I visited in March 2008 with about twenty students. We rolled up there on a bus one Saturday morning, ours arms laden down with toiletries, nappies and other useful items and stayed all day, looked around the place, played football, did face-painting, played board games and ate cakes they had baked and drank orange squash. It was a memorable experience for the students.

 

The Rock Fest event was the first of four fundraisers on three consecutive days for Task Brasil. The day after The British School appearance, on the Sunday afternoon Jimmy attended a churascaria (barbeque) at Casa Jimmy and later in the evening he auctioned a guitar at the Rio Rock & Blues Club in Lapa, central Rio. He also hosted an executive lunch on the Monday. It was made clear before he arrived that Jimmy would not be playing guitar at The British School event and that he was there as a VIP guest only, but might do a bit of speaking.

 

The sold-out concert was held in the school’s cosy auditorium to an audience of 267 people consisting primarily of the students, staff, parents and friends of The British School. A few members of the public also managed to get tickets but they were the lucky ones as the visit was essentially a low-key school event. There were spaces for 40 people on the balcony and the rest of the punters were standing downstairs. Excitement had been building all week amongst the students as many are huge Zeppelin fans and the realisation that, yes, the Jimmy Page was visiting their school was met with almost disbelief!

 

I just happen to be a teacher at The British School so I bought a R$200 ticket for the event (this is about £70.00) and found myself up in the balcony of the small auditorium waiting for the great man to arrive. Having received a short introduction from the school’s Director, Jimmy walked onstage just before 3 pm to introduce the concert, casually dressed in blue jeans and a short-sleeved black shirt. He introduced the concert after apologising for his ‘minimal’ Portuguese (I heard him speak a couple of phrases of Brazilian Portuguese later in the day). The Task Brasil staff and some of the kids then introduced themselves and thanked everyone for their support.

 jimmy-page-arrives-at-rock-fest-photo-by-robert-franklin

Jimmy arriving at Rock Fest – photo by Robert Franklin

 

 

 

At the outset a rather fired-up member of the audience was shouting out, ‘play one for us Jimmy`. Page responded by doing an air-guitar flurry of notes and received a big cheer. Then he went back to the mic and announced that he didn’t have his guitar with him and gave us another quick air-guitar performance. Looking at the video of this now, he is remarkably relaxed and good-humoured.

 

Jimmy left the stage and went upstairs and walked along the balcony. As he reached me, I stuck out my hand, he shook it and said hello. He then sat down about 5 feet away from me, chatting to the Task Brasil people and sipping from a small bottle of mineral water. We were of course at in a state of shock and awe at this point having only seen this man from afar onstage at big concerts or on video. I took a few close-up photos but tried not to stare too much and thankfully I didn’t sidle up to him and start asking daft questions. I really didn’t want to pester him but I could have though…He was sitting right there!

 

The concert started with that 1966 Yardbirds U.S mimed T.V performance of Heart Full Of Soul was shown on a big screen and when the screen was pulled up it revealed a band of the British School music teachers playing a bossa nova version of the same song. It was a great beginning and Page obviously loved this surprising start to the show.

 

The next band onstage was made up of students on guitar, bass and drums and a teacher on vocals. They played ‘Heartbreaker’ and our resident 14-year old student guitar hero really ripped that famous solo with great accuracy and Page grinned with delight and gave him a round of applause. Throughout the concert, Jimmy was completely attentive, concentrating on the music and was not distracted by the fuss around him. He was obviously listening intently.

 

In between the musical acts three raffles were held for 15 signed posters designed by Leah Wilks, the Head of Art at the school. A further five went up for auction at the end of the show. Also during the breaks, footage of a 1983 New York ARMS concert and the April 1958 ‘All Your Own’ footage were put up on the giant screen. I saw that Page was sitting there quite happily watching younger versions of himself perform. When Jimmy’s instrumental version of Stairway To Heaven from the ARMS show started playing with both Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton trading solos at the end, Page remarked to the bloke next to him that he’d never seen this bit of footage before. One of the Task kids aged about 6 years old tugged at his elbow, pointed at the screen and said with a great deal of confusion, ‘Is that you?’ Page just laughed. Later he joked about his appearance too, ‘I just wanted to say for anyone who’s seen some of these clips of me…or the poster, that on this special occasion I’ve dyed my hair silver.’

 

During another interval Page went back up onstage as the Task Brasil people were making some announcements and this time said, ‘I’m not quite sure what I came up onstage here to do but at least I can introduce you to the guys here, Mr. Israel and his sons (who acted as the rhythm section)…’ He shook hands with them all and then came back up to the balcony of the auditorium, as they tore into an excellent version of ‘Fire’ by Jimi Hendrix. Once again Page was a model of concentration despite his obvious jet-lag, and once again was getting into the music.

 

As the concert continued the various student bands played songs like Wish You Were Here, Train Kept ‘A Rollin’, Sweet Home Alabama, The Show Must Go On and Hard To Handle. Page watched all of these performances and seemed to really be enjoying the show, tapping his foot, nodding his head, cheering in all the right places and occasionally giving the thumbs-up to star-struck fans downstairs.

 

By this stage of the afternoon people around him in the balcony were feeling a bit more confident and they started to ask him for autographs. I saw him sign two CDs (a I and a IV), a DVD copy of the Unledded shows and a note-book. However at this point people downstairs in the auditorium were trying to throw various items of memorabilia up to him such as old posters and Zeppelin vinyl and he was obviously feeling harassed, started getting uncomfortable and then didn’t feel like signing anything else, so he just stopped. Later he would resume but for now refused any further requests for autographs.

 

Towards the end of the show, while Pepeu Gomes, George Israel and their band were playing While My Guitar Gently Weeps live onstage, Jimmy was in the tiny green room chatting to the students and signing their backstage passes, a photocopy of an old Zep poster, a tambourine and bits of scrap paper. He then walked back onstage with the Task people for the third and final time of the day with the Head of the Urca Site to do the auction and to say goodbye. Jimmy told the audience that although he couldn’t give everyone an autograph, he would personally address by name the already-signed limited edition posters to the highest bidders.  My ears pricked up at this point…

 

I was standing at the front of the balcony just above the edge of the stage. The first poster auction started – ‘Let’s start at R$200?’ said the auctioneer. For two horrifying seconds nobody in the audience said anything – perhaps they were translating that sentence into Portuguese in their heads – so I shouted ‘yes!’, whilst waving my arms around like a deranged lunatic. Instead of carrying on the bidding, Jimmy just looked at me and pointed, then asked the auctioneer, ‘What’s his name?’, ‘Okay, Mark…okay we’re gonna do it for Mark.’ He wrote my name on it, walked to the side of the stage and reached up and gave it to me and I shook his hand for the second time that day! To my slight embarrassment someone has posted footage of Jimmy signing my poster on YouTube. What you can’t see in this video is when Page looked up at me about 5 minutes later saying something like, ‘make sure you pay for it.’ Don’t worry Jimmy – I did.

 

The auction continued and by now the crowd had realised what was going on and the bidding for the other 4 posters was much more competitive and two of them went for R$2000 (one to The British School) – ten times the cost of mine! I did receive some unprintable comments about my jammy piece of good luck from friends after the show!

 

In summary, spending about two hours in Jimmy’s immediate company was an eye opener. He was old-fashioned polite (everything he said was followed by a ‘please’ or a ‘thank you’), charming and smiley. He was relaxed and co-operative when chatting to the staff and students of The British School in the corridors and backstage, and he was happy to sign their stuff too with comments like, ‘Whole Lotta Love’, ‘Rock On!’ and ‘Happy 15 Years’, for a lucky student whose birthday it was that very same day.

 

Students later told me that he praised their musical chops, their Zeppelin T-shirts and their positive attitude. Also when a student handed him a violin bow and said play something, he drew the bow across the strings of a guitar backstage but said there wasn’t enough resin on it, as it was slipping on the guitar strings. On the day, Jimmy arrived at the school with no entourage, limos or any other kind of rock star baggage and left a good impression on us. The event will be remembered for a long time by the students.

 

Jimmy Page despite being that icon, guitar hero and legend who we know has led an unusual life, in so-called ‘real life’ he just came across to us as a slightly laid back easy going English bloke, with only his long white hair tied back in a ponytail giving away his heritage. He left the school with the Task Brasil workers in a modest Kia. He has already been asked back to the school, so you never know, I might get to meet him again…

 

On Sunday afternoon Jimmy attended a barbecue at Casa Jimmy. I did not go but my colleague who played in the opening band the day before did. He reported that Jimmy had asked him to tell him what the chords were to the unusual version of Heart Full Of Soul the band had played. In fact this was now the second time that Jimmy had asked him for these chords having already spoken to the same guy on the day before.

 

On the Sunday evening of the 29th November Jimmy Page appeared at the Rio Rock & Blues club in Rua do Riachuelo, Lapa. A Gibson SG guitar signed by Iron Maiden and other items were auctioned. Prior to the auction Jimmy listened to a Samba band with Juliana Só and Daniela Maia on vocals. A rock band called XL also played. I didn’t attend this event either but from reading the Rio newspapers and looking at some footage on YouTube it is clear that when the guitar auction bidding started to falter at R$4100, Jimmy picked up the guitar a bit reluctantly, strummed one E-chord and held it above his head to huge cheers. This caused the bidding to shoot up to R$5400. In total R$8000 was raised by this appearance and donated to Casa Jimmy. I have already mentioned that on Monday 30th a fund-raising lunch was hosted by Jimmy. As of now I have no information about this part of his visit to Rio.

 

If you enjoyed reading this article and seeing the photos why not donate a few quid to Task Brasil via their website? (www.taskbrasil.org.uk/donations/).

 

Many thanks to Mark for that on the spot report – Mark was the editor of the excellent early 90s UK Zep fanzine Wearing And Tearing (DL)

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2 Comments »

  • lee litif said:

    i.ll never forget november 1993 o degree weather at the boston robert plant orpheum theatre show which wasempyreanly brilliant and that night i waited from quarter of 2 in the afternoon to quarter past 11 at night hoping to meet robert plant and instead i end up meeting the the grand sorceror transonic jimmy page that night sitting in the back of his alexis car not only did he autographed the robert plant 88 photo that night i complimented him that night on his past present future work and jimmy page david coverdale cd and in his nice usual angelic voice he said well thank you very much and of course that night me and 11 people ambushed the car he was in that night to meet him but that was an ultrasonic aludra and i.ll never forget it

  • Carlos Valente said:

    I was lucky enough to read in a newspaper a few days before the event that Jimmy would be there. Great to see my idol ( second time, first was in the Page Plant Tour in Brazil ) so close and to the benefit of Casa Jimmy. I will never forget this afternoon, thanks Jimmy.

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