The story of the Blasters' show at the Bayou last night was written on lead singer Phil Alvin's face: The sweat rolling off his high forehead in the fervor of the moment; his eyes squeezed shut to some vision of American landscapes and Saturday nights; his mouth pulled open in a contagious grin with his teeth bared for any challenge. As they unveiled songs from their forthcoming third album and displayed a more disciplined sound, the Blasters gave notice they are maturing into one of America's best rock 'n' roll bands.
The absence of their two horn players -- Lee Allen and Steve Berlin -- robbed them of the rich textures they've had in past shows, but they compensated with a tighter focus. A measured understatement on songs like "If You Please" and the new "Little Honey" made their full-throttle numbers like "One Red Rose" and "Stop the Clock" all the more effective. When Phil Alvin relinquished the mike, the scope of the songs expanded with solos by his brother Dave, looking like a hillbilly king on guitar, and by Gene Taylor, looking like a beatnik Buddha at the piano. The band hinted at its deep roots in Americana by dedicating songs to Hank Ballard, Hank Williams and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The Blasters play at Girard's in Baltimore tonight.