Canadian singer-songwriter Leslie Feist - Feist to you - can be one of alt-pop's most annoying artists, when she isn't busy being one of its sharpest. As a onetime member of Broken Social Scene and a collaborator with the likes of Grizzly Bear (their song "Service Bell" is a highlight of
Dark Was the Night
) she was a crisp moody vocalist, a sweet songbird on a bender. Her most recent album, 2011's luminous
, has an intimate, plaintive quality that few platinum acts bother to hold dear. Slow and tender for the most part,
and its boldest songs such as "Caught a Long Wind" and "The Bad in Each Other," seem to shimmy along through a series of sparkling guitars and Feist's ruminative lyrics. Let's hope that Feist sells her new album's merits harder than she does her greatest hits like the tortuously effervescent "1234," a song that caused some folks to buy the Apple iPod Nano the tune was shilling for and caused others to smash their Nano.
- A.D. Amorosi
To his fans, Vince Gill is the embodiment of country music at its best: poignant (yet never sappy) storytelling, gorgeous singing, and topflight guitar playing. And Gill's multifaceted talent has translated into 26 million albums sold and 20 Grammy Awards since his 1990 breakthrough, "I Call Your Name." But having nothing to prove hasn't stopped the 54-year-old musician from stretching his own boundaries with each new album. 2006 brought the ambitious, platinum-selling, four-CD set,
, which nabbed the Grammy for best country album. His latest effort,
is one of Gill's most personal yet, with songs touching on everything from mortality ("Bread and Water," about his late brother) to commitment ("True Love," a duet with wife Amy Grant). For this tour, Gill opens with a stripped-down acoustic set, then brings out his six-member band and backing singer for a full-on country sound.
- Nicole Pensiero
A surefire in-concert delight, and arguably Mali's best-known guitar virtuoso bearing that surname (there are others), finally brings his incendiary skills back to Philadelphia. As Hurricane Irene rained out his free gig scheduled in West Philly in August, this will be the first chance to enjoy the West African's sizzling guitar chops here since he played on a local dream-bill with Afro-pop-informed Brooklyn art-rockers Dirty Projectors almost three years ago. Since then, this son of (the late, hugely influential Malian guitar maestro) Ali Farka Touré has developed further. His sound ranges from the skittering Saharan "desert blues" of Tinariwen et al to the treble-drenched bite of raw Chicago blues. Yet the flames he ignites, whether on hard-rockin' or reggae-fied originals - or his recent, brilliant collaborations with Israeli world-music ace Idan Raichel - are all his fiery own. (A second show has now been added at the Annenberg Center's intimate 211-seat Prince Theatre; disregard listings putting Touré in the same building's 950-plus capacity Zellerbach Theatre.)
- David R. Stampone