On his only American date before a major European tour, Nils Lofgren showed the home-town fans that he's still the genuine guitar hero who knocked Neil Young's socks off more than a decade ago. At a jam-packed Bayou last night, those long-suffering fans, unable to understand this country's long-term apathy, greeted Lofgren like a long-lost lover; he responded with nearly two hours of sensuous interplay that built to frequent climaxes on classic originals like "I Came to Dance," "Back It Up, "Beggar's Day" and "Like Rain."

Lofgren started off a bit tentatively with his boxing eulogy, "No Mercy," but he quickly lived up to its boast that "I'm in my prime." Playing many of the songs from his new album, Lofgren reaffirmed his killer instinct for memorable pop hooks, though the dichotomy between what he used to call his "dreamy" (romantic) and "rockin' " sides has been resolved in favor of the latter.

Live, his voice overcomes its limitations due to his stage animus and explosive guitar playing. Lofgren's best work is every bit as heroic as Bruce Springsteen's, with the compelling syncopations of the smoother Stones. It made for explosive rock rooted in the '60s pop sensibility Lofgren grew up with, a connection summed up in his Byrds-like reading of Carole King's "Going Back."