Lisa Hannigan @ Royal Festival Hall, London

“I’m so excited,” beams Lisa Hannigan as she dances on the spot amid a collection of weird and wonderful instruments, framed by twinkling fairy lights and watched by a sea of enraptured fans.

London’s Royal Festival Hall is the latest stop on the Irish singer’s current tour, and she is giddy with childlike awe at the grandeur of the South Bank venue.

Having stepped out of the shadow of her long-time collaborator Damien Rice in 2007, Hannigan’s charming mix of traditional folk and catchy pop has attracted the attention of fans and critics alike, and it’s easy to see why.

With her long red dress and jet-black hair, the 28-year-old makes the stage her own, switching effortlessly between guitar, harmonium, melodica and banjo, all the while demonstrating her powerful yet delicate vocal skills.

The first half of tonight’s set is comprised of her debut solo album Sea Sew, songs of diverse influences and emotions that reveal their power and sense of fun when played live.

Hannigan stamps her feet and draws shapes in the air with her hands as she sings, shadow-boxing with the beat like a party-goer trying to resist the pull of the dance floor.

Her five band members provide a fluid, assured backing of fiddles, pianos, xylophones, guitars and drums, adding a welcome attitude and swagger remnant of The Pogues or The Waterboys in their pomp.

But the highlight of the night comes when Hannigan is left alone onstage with a mandolin to deliver a beautiful, note-perfect version of a new song about “being away from home but still being tied down.”

Her mates re-join her for a haunting rendition of album track Courting Blues, before a rousing encore finishes with a raucous cover of Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus.

The band leave the stage to a standing ovation, fists raised in triumph, applauding the audience for their part in a magical evening.

Folk music was never quite this much fun.

Watch a video of Lisa performing at GuilFest in July:


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