Jack White and The Edge breaking it down.
Chris Martin of Coldplay recently said in an interview that no matter how crazy people might get about rock stars, it's nothing compared to the reaction to Hollywood movie stars.
Judging by the arrival of Jimmy Page at the Ryerson on Friday night, for the screening of Davis Guggenheim's It Might Get Loud, that's not strictly true. Okay, so far as I can tell, no one fainted or wept or generally behaved like the Ed Sullivan audience when the Beatles first appeared, but the crowd was pretty damn stoked, and gave the man (and his co-stars, The Edge and Jack White) two standing ovations.
It was calmer on Saturday at the Sutton Place hotel when Page, Edge, White, Guggenheim and producers Thomas Tull and Lesley Chilcott sat down with The Hour's George Stroumboulopoulos (natch) to discuss the film. But even the jaded and grouchy press corps seemed a little giggly in the presence of greatness.
The Edge looked like he always does these days - jeans, skull cap, sneakers. Jack White continues to look like an amalgam of two or three of Johnny Depp's characters (Edward Scissorhands and Sweeney Todd with just a touch of Sam from Benny & Joon, in case you were wondering) and Page seemed ... cuddly.
It's a weird word to use for a Genuine Rock God, I know. And it's even more apparent in the film than it was during the press conference. But sitting on the stage in his long black coat and white dress shirt, with his Quaker Oats Man silver hair pulled back, he spoke softly and smiled beatifically and casually waved aside any and all questions about a Led Zeppelin reunion, which one reporter termed "the elephant in the room." He just came off as a really sweet man.
The initial idea for the film was Tull's; he wanted to make the definitive film about the electric guitar. (Which this ... isn't, but it's a great doc nonetheless.) The three guitarists the filmmakers got were the ones at the top of their list, despite some initial reservations by the elder two, who, like most artists, were reluctant to delve too deeply into their creative processes.
"My forte is playing music, I'm more at home playing live onstage than anywhere else," Page said. "But talking about it - I'd much rather play it than talk about it."
The Edge, in turn, was revealed to be more of a humourous, silver-tongued Irishman than I'd expected - makes you realize he's probably got lots to say except that Bono won't shut up.
"Davis made all these promises, many of which he broke," he joked. "It is terrifying to talk about your process ... to the point that I felt almost vulnerable. But what Davis has done is make a film about not just the technical side of guitar-playing but about the personal journeys that brought the three of us through to where we are now."
For White's part, it was easy to commit to the film once the two elder statesmen were involved. (In the film, he jokes that he's going to get them to teach him all their tricks, and there's a gorgeous moment when Page is playing the riff from "Whole Lotta Love" and White and the Edge couldn't stop grinning if you paid them.)
But in contrast to the Edge, White was excited by the possibility of examining the technical and mechanical aspects of the instrument itself, as opposed to a more biographical take on these three musicians.
"And through that process you learn a lot about what was happening in the blues scene in the 60s in Britain or what was happening in Ireland or the British Isles with the punk scene in the 70s and early 80s, and what was happening in Detroit in the underground rock scene at the turn of the century. It's sort of what Hitchcock would call - the guitar is the MacGuffin of the film."
White talked about growing up in a predominantly Hispanic neighbourhood in Detroit, where hip hop and breakdancing were the norm and "it was very un-cool to play guitar." The Edge pointed out that "Hip hop has been kicking rock 'n' roll's ass for many years in terms of innovation.
"So it's great when you see a resurgence happening. In some ways, I'm actually more thrilled to hear something that a 17-year-old kid is doing in some part of the world I've never been to than I am in listening to the history. Because it is an instrument that's constantly being reinvented."
The three said they came out of the film with a great deal of affection and respect for each other, and didn't put the kybosh on the possibility of them reuniting, although there are no plans to do so right now.
As for the elephant in the room? Page didn't say so in so many words, but Robert Plant seems to be the holdout as far as any Zeppelin tour is concerned. Fingers crossed that when he's done touring with Alison Krauss he'll decide he could use an extra 10 million or so in his bank account.