Star rating: ***

It was a mark of confidence that Michelle Shocked, during her first number, invited - and received - ecstatic audience participation. And so it went for the first half-dozen songs, this generous singer/songwriter seemingly enjoying the audience singing and clapping along to her home-spun tunes. It was quite the hootenanny.

Then a strange thing happened. She exited the stage, leaving bassist and horn-player Rich Armstrong to perform a dubious take of God Bless the Child. On her return, the evening became much more subdued, leaving the distinct impression that we were witnessing something of a back-to-front performance. More of a build-down than a build-up.

That said, there is no denying Shocked's passion for, and enjoyment of, her music. Songs from the recently released live gospel set ToHeavenURide show her voice's natural ability for the genre, particularly on a gorgeous Uncloudy Day and on Good News, with its riff reminiscent of Miles Davis's So What.

The musical setting, provided by her three-piece band, was loose and fluid, but at times seemed a little uncertain of its footing. Where once Shocked was happy to preach politics, on Wednesday night she sermonised, at perhaps too great a length, about religion. It's a subject that has its place, but I'm not convinced a concert stage is its happiest home.