No longer abord the Jefferson Starship, Marty Balin seems well on his way to becoming a top-40 fixture. He meets all the requirements: a pleasing, distinctive voice, an ear for insinuating melodies, a fondness for romantic ballads and a marked proclivity for sticking with the tried and true.
If his performance at the Bayou last night did nothing else, it demonstrated the skill and ease with which Balin is piloting his solo flight. He's a crooner for the '80s, taking warmed-over sentiments and turning them into generally soothing, always palatable songs.
This sort of pop alchemy, of course, is as old as Tin Pan Alley itself. But Balin has mastered it better than most.
The majority of tunes he sang were off his current album. "Lydia!" was typical -- a rock operetta built around a simple refrain and a spiraling melody. "I Do Believe in You" lyrically foreshadowed the Starship's mid-'70s hit "Miracle." By the time Balin got to that song, his voice, warm and limber, embraced the lyrics as softly as it had seven years earlier. "Hearts" and "Atlanta Lady" also carried the same gentle glow.
His band provided sharp and concise support throughout, reinforcing the notion that Balin is better off charting his own course these days than following the Starship's journey into bombastic rock.