Ellie Goulding

The Critic's Choice comes to Belfast for a gig of two halves

Leaning comfortably on a pillar at the back of the Spring & Airbrake, I nod along to tonight's support act, southern trio Planet Parade, on their first appearance in Belfast. They prove easy to listen to and receive a generous response from the audience, killing time as they await the latest addition to Brit-Pop royalty.

23-year old Ellie Goulding would do well to dedicate some more space in her no doubt less-than-humble abode for future awards, having already topped the BBC's Sound of 2010 Poll and scooped the Critics Choice Award at the 2010 Brit Awards.

If Goulding's performance was (by way of some inexplicable twist of fate) on Match of the Day, our commentator would have been forgiven for throwing in that old clichéd phrase 'a game of two halves'. Arrving on stage, the blonde beauty displays a flirtatious shy confidence as she begins an acoustic first half of her hour long set.

Immediately I'm drawn in by her presence and talent as a live performer. Playing acoustic guitar, she opens with 'This Love (Will Be Your Downfall)', and from the first breath any doubts about her vocal abilities are put to rest. Goulding's tone is soft yet powerful. Strumming centre stage, she plays the less known tracks from her chart-topping debut album Lights.

The mixed age group who have descended on the Spring & Airbrake for the gig - mums and dads ahoy - is surprising and refreshing. Although the swaying crowd can be forgiven for not knowing the words to Goulding's more mid tempo tracks such as 'Every Time You Go' and 'Guns and Horses' (Lights has only been out a few weeks, after all), the die hards belt them out word for word.

Proving on the night that she is not a static stage performer, the time comes for Goulding to up the tempo. Switching from guitar to effects pad and single (prop) drum, Goulding seems to enjoy the instrumental freedom she has alongside the company of her live band.

Gearing up for a high energy finish, Goulding bangs out the intro to 'Under the Sheets' on a single drum, juggling her drumsticks as she sings. It's time for the finale - an extended version of everyone's favourite single, 'Starry Eyed'. Interacting with the audience, Goulding turns the mic to the 400 strong gathering as they bellow out the chorus.

Note for note, Goulding is hard to fault, and her young band perform like they've been gigging together for years. No one can argue with Goulding's songwriting ability and on stage delivery. With her name etched on most of this summer's festival bills, I look forward to seeing her again.

Ryan Hand