May 12, 2014
What's it like to perform Jimmy Page's solo on 'Stairway to Heaven' when the man himself is watching? According to guitarist Sebastian Fernandez, it was "like a spiritual adventure."
On Friday (May 9), Page attended the commencement at Boston's Berklee College of Music, where he was given an honorary degree. The ceremony closed with graduates performing a series of Led Zeppelin songs, including 'Good Times Bad Times,' 'The Ocean' and 'Whole Lotta Love.' The final song was 'Stairway' with a bit of 'Over the Hills and Far Away' in the middle. At roughly the 5:00 mark, Fernandez, who was in the graduating class, stepped forward for his moment in the spotlight and, as you can see in the video below, completely nailed the famous solo.
Ultimate Classic Rock reached out to Fernandez to get the inside story. "It was really spiritual," he said. "The whole week, we were rehearsing a lot and the tension was building up. But once the day came, really, as soon as I got on stage, I felt a great energy. It was like being possessed. The energy was just amazing."
It may have seemed like a daunting task, but Fernandez knew he was up to the challenge. "I felt really flattered and honored to have that responsibility of playing those five songs," he added. "I actually wanted that responsibility because when I knew that the show was going to end with 'Stairway,' I told [the organizers], 'Hey, I know that solo perfectly,' so I was really glad to get it."
As the 24-year old guitarist performed, he noticed that Page was enjoying himself. "I was playing my solos and I could see Jimmy 10 rows from the stage," he continued. "Every time I would look at him, he was laughing. That felt really great. It was like a spiritual adventure. I didn't want to get off that stage. It was one of the best shows and nights of my life so far."
The two had actually met before in London five years ago through a personal connection. During the graduation ceremony, he re-introduced himself to his Page and received compliments on his performance and a hug from the legend.
Led Zeppelin News tweeted a picture of Page and Fernandez following the concert.
Now that he's graduated, Fernandez is concentrating on his band, Stone Giant, which he formed in 2012 with fellow Berklee Class of 2014 graduate Joao Nogueira (keyboards), and Pedro Zappa (bass) and Pepe Hidalgo (drums), both of whom will graduate next year. They've recently been gigging around Boston and New York, and will soon be recording their debut album, with the hopes of touring South America in the near future. One listen to their song 'The Groove' reveals the influences of Deep Purple (in Nogueira's keyboards) and, in Fernandez's left-handed Gibson SG, Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath.
"We all have those influences, Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix -- all the classic rock," he said. "And we want to bring it back."