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Low-key Robert Plant lacks mettle at Dome

Did Robert Plant, ex-lead vocalist for the legendary Led Zeppelin break down and perform a contemporary version of Stairway To Heaven? No, he did not. Then, was his Saturday night concert at the Florida Suncoast Dome worth checking out? Well, sort of. The blond-maned rock icon took the stage in an appropriately majestic swirl of lights, smoke and flying hair.

Plant opened the show with a panorama of selections from his current Manic Nirvana album, including Watching You, Nobody's Fault and Tie Dye on the Highway. Just 15 minutes into the show, it was obvious that Plant was in control of his voice, and that there would be few histrionics or theatrical flourishes.

As far as Plant's jaunty vocals went, that turned out to be a good deal. Plant, who can get screechy, sounded characteristically hoarse but rich.

He did, however, seem to be on an en-nun-ci-a-tion kick, which, given the banality of most of Plant's lyrics, was a bit wearisome.

The mood of the concert was relaxed to say the least. Part of the low anxiety was due to a relatively small crowd. (Suncoast Dome director Bill Boggs said the show turned out about 16,000 fans.) The uncluttered aisles and passageways allowed concertgoers to mill about, visit with one another or take note of what was happening on stage.

While the crowd got to its feet occasionally, Plant contributed to the laid-back atmosphere with his impersonal presence.

At times, it seemed Plant was performing for his own amusement alone in front of a full-length mirror instead of in a huge hall.

Acoustically, the concert rang true, with help from an impeccable sound system. The Dome did its part by showingthat it can handle a decibel-packing mostly metal act.

So, did Plant perform any Led Zeppelin songs? Sure he did. In fact, Plant's understated rendition of Going to California was one of the concert's high points. He also touched on Living Loving Maid and The Immigrant Song for fewer nostalgia bonus points but much to the delight of the crowd.

Opening band the Black Crowes was a special treat. The Southern-flavored five-piece combined dextrous guitar work with whiskey-tinged vocals, keeping an audience largely unfamiliar with its work nicely entertained for its 45-minute set.