A 500-seat club like the Bayou is far from the madding-crowd scenes depicted in the '70s remake of "A Star Is Born." But that's where Kris Kristofferson was last night, singing some of the finest songs he wrote before Hollywood beckoned.

In this relatively cozy setting it was easy to appreciate Kristofferson's songwriting abilities, even when his expressionless voice failed to do his lyrics justice. Following a brief but likable set by singer Billy Swan, Kristofferson opened with a lively electric version of "Me and Bobby McGee." Moments later, picking up a 12-string acoustic guitar, he abruptly changed the mood with "Help Me Make It Through the Night" and spent much of the next hour and a half balancing the restlessness expressed in the first song with the intimacy suggested by the latter.

Unfortunately, when the singing got rough, Kristofferson's voice got rougher, and at times he seemed like one of the least capable interpreters of his own songs. But those moments were few. Mostly, he respected his vocal limitations and wisely allowed the band's harmonies to round off any edges.

While there was plenty of new material, ranging from the ephemeral to the promising, nothing drew or warranted the response the capacity crowd reserved for the songs that first brought Kristofferson fame. He closed with "Why Me?" to a standing ovation.