The songs come in a breath, as easy and pure as breathing. There is nothing affected or posed at a Mary Black concert - just a selection of songs presented by an artisan utterly in charge of her craft.

Before a packed Aotea Centre audience the Irish songstress, one of the best female interpretative vocalists around, laid out over two hours of her contemporary ballads, and even chucked in the traditional tragedy Anachie Gordon for the man down the front.

After taking a seat for a couple of songs, she said how it was nice to relax for a bit on stage. "You feel as if you're at a little session or something."

That's the atmosphere she and her band, especially the masterful Pat Crowley, created for the Auckland crowd. Understated, easy, as simple as a melody. If that meant it lacked a sharp edge at times in the first half, it's a mere quibble.

With a voice that can be smokey as a peat fire and then light as sunshine over Dingle Bay, Black offered a great selection of old and new songs.

She would swoop into the microphone, plucking pitch-perfect notes like the most graceful seagull taking fish from the ocean. Then the voice - that voice - would soar away again.

In amongst it was the story telling and humour, with tales of how her father's almost immigration 60 years ago meant that Black was almost a Kiwi.

It was in the second half though, with Bright Blue Rose and Summer Sent You, when the docile crowd of many ages awoke and started giving Black some energy to work with.

From that point, through Song for Ireland to Katie, she found an extra spurt, especially in the two encores.

And Mary, you brought out Neil Finn's Fall at Your Feet in his home town and did it justice. People will be hoping it won't be another six years or so before you return again.