Members of Nirvana, Soundgarden, Cheap Trick and other bands inspired by Led Zeppelin paid tribute to guitarist Jimmy Page — and, at the last minute, Page grabbed a guitar and joined them on stage.

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EMP has had some pretty special Founders Award concerts over the years — including Buddy Guy and Carlos Santana — but it would be hard to top the Thursday-night tribute to Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page. The event raised over a million dollars for EMP youth programming, but it also provided a chance for Seattle music superstars to pay homage to an all-time great.

Sir Page thanked the crowd in his speech for giving so generously, but he also said that youth-education programming like EMP’s is now his passion. A guitar Page signed sold for $120,000 at auction.

“It is all now about passing on the baton,” Page said. He also spoke of his days as a teenage session player in London. “I don’t know whether I got music, or music got me.”

The result, as Paul Allen noted in his introduction, was the creation of “more great guitar riffs” than any other player. Page also had a tremendous influence on grunge, as Zeppelin was the one group universally beloved by ’80s Seattle bands.

To prove that point, a lineup of Seattle superstars played Zeppelin’s best-known songs. “When the Levee Breaks,” done by Jerry Cantrell and William DuVall of Alice in Chains, was explosive, as was “Communication Breakdown.”

The house band was anchored by Barrett Martin on drums and Duff McKagan on bass, both Seattle legends, but also recently of the Walking Papers. When Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil joined them for “Immigrant Song,” they instantly shifted from blues to rock, and it was more than heavy.

“Out on the Tiles” was not one of Zeppelin’s big hits, but adding in Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic made it a highlight. Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen created his own guitar wizardry on “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago.”

The night ended with a dozen musicians, including Bad Company’s Paul Rogers plus Paul Allen, jamming on a spirited “Rock and Roll.” Page had planned on just watching, but at the last minute he couldn’t resist grabbing an instrument and playing.

Whether the guitar grabbed Page, or Page grabbed it, hardly mattered. The song meant so much to so many Seattle music fans — including the musicians onstage, who would make history themselves.

Jimmy Page jamming on ‘Rock and Roll’ with members of Nirvana, Soundgarden and others at his EMP tribute.
Jimmy Page jamming on ‘Rock and Roll’ with members of Nirvana, Soundgarden and others at his EMP tribute.