So I saw Feist perform in Boulder, Colorado, last weekend, and I have to say my initial description of her as a poor man's Cat Power was somewhat apt. Actually, it would be more fair to describe her as a Canadian Cat Power; she has the same breathy voice, wandering melodies, and long, straight hair as Chan Marshall, but she's not nuts like Cat Power is, which I suppose is a good thing. She's also funny and amiable and unpretentious.
Feist has a surprising amount of showmanship in her, or showwomanship, bringing out some never-identified woman to tap-dance during one of the encores, inviting a fan up onstage to help sing a verse whose lyrics Feist had forgotten (the fan actually had a stronger voice than Feist and ended up adding some nice harmonies), calling the voicemail of the leader of her opening act, Grizzly Bear, whose van had broken down, causing them to miss the show, and asking the whole crowd to say hello. She got the crowd involved quite a bit with singalongs and even orchestrating a vocal chord, dividing the audience into three groups based on the first letter of their name. And her instrumentation buys into this try-anything notion, with everyone in her band moving among multiple instruments, including one guy on flugelhorn.
I still don't see how Feist is going to be some kind of huge star, contra the New York Times. The tunes, while solidly written, aren't hooky enough to become pop hits, which would also describe Cat Power, come to think of it. But hey, she's pretty good.