Sharon Shannon.

Sharon Shannon: Pure pleasure.

Reviewer rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

MUSIC
The Spotted Mallard

Friday January 11

THE last time I saw Sharon Shannon at the 2012 WOMADelaide festival, she had a crowd of several thousand people eating out of the palm of her hand - or rather, dancing joyfully to the sound of her squeezebox.

This time Shannon and her band performed in a more intimate space in Melbourne, but the atmosphere was equally festive. The celebrated Irish accordionist instinctively connects with audiences, and on Friday night she chatted to us between tunes and urged us to get up and dance. For a while the audience remained seated, though heads nodded and feet tapped insistently as the band moved swiftly through a series of irresistible jigs, reels and waltzes.

Shannon's button accordion leapt with life, darting across the melody in tandem with Sean Regan's agile fiddle. Jim Murray's acoustic guitar provided much of the music's propulsion, but also toyed with the rhythm to add syncopated exclamation marks. And the presence of Jack Maher on electric guitar and vocals demonstrated Shannon's willingness to push beyond the borders of traditional Irish music, adding hints of rock-like grit and - on I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal You - an unexpected detour into zydeco-tinged blues.

All the while the punters grew increasingly ecstatic, cheering and stomping their approval and crowding onto the dance floor in increasing numbers. By the time the band launched into The Galway Girl, the audience was singing along with cheerful abandon, while the encore set (The Bungee Jumpers) saw strangers linking arms to twirl in circles, punctuating their gleeful dance with whoops of pure pleasure.