Nelly Furtado, Apollo, Manchester

Apollo, Manchester

It was perhaps intended as an olive branch of sorts. Midway through a frenetic set, Nelly Furtado - a first-generation Canadian with Portuguese parents - dedicates Forca, Portugal's official song for Euro 2004, to the efforts of "Team England!" Having already introduced her bassist as an Arsenal fan to a Manchester crowd, she may have gone one football reference too far. After a communal sharp intake of breath from the audience at her sheer audacity, the party atmosphere vanishes for a moment.

Furtado was an obvious choice to pen the theme: several of her songs already sound primed for the opening ceremony of a major sporting tournament. In their splicing of Latino and hip-hop rhythms with traditional acoustic instrumentation, they make you half expect a Chinese dragon to emerge from the wings.

Keeping an eye on Furtado alone is hard enough. She hops back and forth with fitness-video enthusiasm, touching outstretched hands and pulling a few of them up to dance alongside her, albeit outside her spotlight.

Motherhood has evidently done little to burst the bubble of joyous naivety that enveloped her debut album. Her delivery is more assured now, however, featuring an operatic call-and-response segment of the sort not seen since Freddie Mercury hung up his white catsuit. Thrown-in snippets of Dawn Penn's No, No, No and Missy Elliott's Get Ur Freak On only underline the strength of Furtado's own compositions: Turn Off the Lights is a highlight.

Unfortunately, after a winning performance across 90 minutes, a drum solo to conclude the encore can only be viewed as an own goal in the last seconds of time added on.

· At the Hammersmith Apollo, London W6 (0870 606 3400), tonight. Then touring.

Steve Pill

The GuardianTramp

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