Billy Falcon and John Hiatt, two convulsive rockers who combine New Wave tension with a passion for rockability and R&B, opened last night at the Cellar Door.

With Falcon, comparisons are inevitable. Like Elvis Costello, Falcon handles the microphone as if he might swallow his tongue at any moment; like Bruce Springsteen, he is fond of dramatic shifts in tempo and volume, and like Dave Edmunds, he loves the simple, unadorned lines of Memphis rock or Chuck Berry.

As for John Hiatt, it looks as if the times have finally caught up with his writing. He began with his song "(No More) Dancing in the Streets," a tune recently covered by Maria Muldaur. Her version may be more intelligible and palatable than the one offered by Hiatt last night, but it contains none of the raw energy that the author imparted to that tune or the others he performed during his first set.

For years now, Hiatt has been given to quirky lyrics, unnerving melodies and a bugeyed presentation on stage. Those may not be singular qualities these days, but the edge Hiatt has on newcomers was clearly evident last night.

Billy Falcon and John Hiatt will be appearing again at the Cellar Door tonight.