Barbara Dickson said she was proud to be the first act on stage at newly re-opened St George's Hall last night, and was full of praise for the £9.5 million refurbishment.

"Well done, Bradford. This has always been a beautiful venue and tonight it looks stunning," said the multi-million selling singer and musician. "I wish you lots of luck in this lovely hall."

Barbara delighted her audience - which included Bafta-winning writer Kay Mellor - with a mesmerising set, drawing largely from her folk roots, as well as hits from her 40-plus year career, including crowd-pleasers January February and Caravan Song.

Storytelling was at the heart of this hugely entertaining show, with Barbara introducing each of the traditional songs, some lively, some poignant. She described The Laird of Dainty Douby as a "folk song for the #MeToo generation", told a sad tale of loss at sea, in the haunting Lady Lord Franklin's Lament, and paid tribute to working-class women in James Taylor's Millworker. Performing with four world-class musicians, she moved effortlessly from guitar to accordion, and her fabulous voice filled the mighty concert venue.

It was a treat to see such a class act. Barbara chatted between songs like an old friend, raising a laugh with her earthy wit. "Of course everyone dies in the end," she said. "They always do in folk songs."

The songs also took us on a journey of her career, which began in the 1960s when she emerged from the Scottish folk revival scene, a travelling musician with a guitar case over her shoulder, to have her talent later snapped up by the likes of Willy Russell and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Barbara was the first actress to play the central role of Mrs Johnstone in Russell's musical Blood Brothers, and her beautiful performance of Easy Terms from the show was a highlight of her Bradford concert, moving some audience members to tears. A stripped back version of Another Suitcase in Another Hall, from Evita, gave it a lovely intimate feel, and Run Like the Wind, by Bradford-born Mike Batt drew whoops of delight.

She began and ended with a touching nod to her friend, Gerry Rafferty, opening and closing the show with his songs The Royal Mile and The Ark.

Barbara Dickson has platinum-selling albums, two Olivier awards and an OBE for services to music and drama, but you just know she'd be as happy singing in a pub with her band as anywhere else.

At the heart of her music is great storytelling, and seeing her perform these lovely songs was like being lost in other worlds.

As the audience poured into St George's Hall for the concert last night, there was a positive reaction to the results of the long-term renovation to the 165-year-old building.

"It's a real treat to be back in this wonderful building," said Susan Asquith of Cleckheaton. "It has been beautifully restored, with its own gentle modern twist."

Janet Moore of Wibsey said: "I've been excited about coming here again, I've missed St George's Hall while it's been closed. I love what they've done to it - it has a fresh, 21st century feel but is still very much a historic concert hall. I like the old posters and tickets on the walls; it reminds me of shows I've been to over the years.

"I'm pleased they've kept the original Victorian features too. It's a nice balance between keeping the heritage of the place, and taking it into a new future as a venue."

Mike Cornish of Bailiff Bridge welcomed the increased leg room. "The seating is much more comfortable and there's more space to move around. It was a bit cramped in the stalls before," he said. "I love the cafe area too, my wife and I are planning to come back for lunch."