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Pop Music Review

Plant Refreshes His Classic Rock Roots

September 14, 2002|Marc Weingarten

As a '70s icon, Robert Plant can't help it if he evokes fuzzy nostalgic feelings, but he is trying his best not to simply phone it in as an oldies act. The ex-Led Zeppelin singer's invigorating performance at the Greek Theatre on Thursday rejiggered classic rock warhorses in compelling ways and found the common ground where hard rock eddies back into vernacular music.

Even when he was a heavy metal Bacchus, Plant flashed his love for folk and blues all over Led Zeppelin's albums. His latest release, "Dreamland," is a tribute to American songwriters such as folk artist Tim Buckley and Skip Spence, the pop eccentric behind the '60s band Moby Grape. At the Greek, Plant betrayed a love for West Coast music, but with Eastern undercurrents.

A burly version of Arthur Lee's "House Is Not a Motel" downshifted into an ululating Indian raga with some help from L.A. violinist Lili Haydn.

"Morning Dew," a song made popular by the Grateful Dead ("we could use some of that now," Plant quipped), was hypnotic and stirring. And the inevitable Zep material--"Whole Lotta Love," "Misty Mountain Hop" and "Going to California," among others--sounded terrific, even if Plant's middle-aged vocal cords can't hit those towering high notes anymore.

Marc Weingarten

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