SOME singers dream of a solo career, but Lisa Hannigan had hers thrust rudely upon her.
Shortly before going on stage in Munich in early 2006 singer Damien Rice told his backing vocalist -- and, it was rumoured, his muse -- their creative partnership had run its course.
She had been at Rice's side through his rise to the pinnacle of the angsty singer food chain, but now Hannigan was out in the cold.
Looking back, splitting from Rice was probably the best thing that ever happened to her. Returning to Dublin, Hannigan recorded a low-key but often lovely album called 'Sea Sew' -- a record that, despite its sometimes maudlin mood swings, feels a world removed from Rice's overwrought bedsit mopery. With tingle-inducing single 'Lille', she even garnered herself an airplay hit.
Still, there were questions as to whether the infamously retiring Hannigan could muster the chutzpah to command the limelight.
Happily, such doubts are laid assuredly to rest at this Vicar Street homecoming, at which Hannigan, a picture of boho chic in glitzy frock and knee-high boots, soaks up the attention like a natural.
She pumps a squeeze box as her band, including cellist Vyvienne Long and guitarist Gavin Glass, tip-toe through the arch chamber pop of 'Teeth' and the fireside whimsy of 'Courting Blues'.
Though some material suggests an artist still finding her feet -- 'Splishy Splashy' is blandly pretty -- slow-building numbers such as 'I Don't Know' transmit a menacing ebb and crackle.
There are a few surprises, too. She joins support artist Mick Flannery for his gorgeous self-penned Christmas ditty and duets with Bell X1's Paul Noonan on 'Some Surprise' (which she originally performed with Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody).
Yet it's her singalong version of 'Lille' which brings the audience to its feet.
On record, the song feels impossibly sad. Tonight, it is three minutes of pure, rapturous joy.