Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, September 1
Pop’s reigning girl next door ever since her victory in American Idol’s inaugural season (all the way back in 2002), Kelly Clarkson has remained interesting and relevant into her thirties, supplying a ready-made role model for younger singers who wish they had even half of the Burleson, Texas native’s vocal talents. Not everything she’s touched has turned to platinum, but the plus column of Clarkson’s balance sheet boasts one of the definitive pop albums of the 2000s, Breakaway, and a volley of later hits like “My Life Would Suck Without You,” “Stronger,” and 2013’s holiday gift “Underneath the Tree.” In the past year or so Clarkson has welcomed her first child, a girl, and begun the inevitable migration away from the Hot 100 and towards the adult-contemporary charts, where “Heartbeat Song” from latest album Piece By Piece recently peaked at No. 2. She’s taken to fielding audience requests on the supporting tour, even obliging one for bad girl du jour Lana Del Rey’s “Off to the Races” — a smart move, proving that A-listers like Clarkson know it never hurts to stay a little unpredictable. With Pentatonix, Eric Hutchinson and Abi Ann.
Hank & Cupcakes
Walters Downtown, September 2
Hank & Cupcakes hail from Brooklyn — as if you couldn’t guess — but come off more like Matt & Kim injected into an old Hanna-Barbera cartoon. The couple/duo featuring a bassist/pedal-board freak (Hank) and a singing standup drummer (Cupcakes) wears outrageous clothes and plays an outrageously catchy brand of energetic disco-rock, and is simply too much fun to dismiss as another hipster cliche. Originally from Israel and Australia, Hank & Cupcakes moved to New York in 2008 and gigged relentlessly until turning to recording in early 2012 with a delicious cover of Joy Division’s “She’s Lost Control.” That led to two albums, 2013’s Naked (recorded in Berlin’s famed Hansa Studios) and last year’s Cash 4 Gold, but lately the duo have taken their party back on the road where it truly belongs. Wednesday’s visit to Walters with a triad of up-and-coming local electro acts (Camera Cult, Matsu Mixu and A Girl Named Tiger) is a production of the Houligan Collective, a new venture by the fine folks who also brought you Houston House of Creeps.
Under the Volcano, September 2
A craftsman of a songwriter capable of both great wit and poignancy, Mike Stinson has raised the bar for local troubadors since moving to Houston in 2009. His 2013 LP Hell and Half of Georgia put a rockin', radio-friendly sheen on some damn fine turns of phrase, and was named that year's No. 42 album by former Washington Post critic Geoffrey Himes in Paste magazine. Last month Stinson was voted the Houston Press Music Awards' Best Country Act for the second year in a row.
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Redneck Country Club, September 2
Libby Koch may have set her 2014 album Tennessee Colony in the tiny East Texas settlement near Palestine where her ancestors settled in the days of William B. Travis, but the lively arrangements — a frisky blend of country, folk, bluegrass and gospel set to some mighty fine fiddle, banjo and mandolin — not only make Tennessee Colony sound daisy-fresh, but also like the rare acoustic-based album that truly deserves to be called “Americana." The first Wednesday of every month, she hosts the RCC’s weekly “Pickin’ Party,” an informal, requests-welcome twist on happy hour where performers are encouraged to share the origins of their songs with the audience.
BBVA Compass Stadium, September 3
Thursday will be BBVA’s second concert of 2015 after Kenny Chesney’s Memorial Day weekend beach party, and this one may be even more impressive because it boils down to Ed Sheeran and a guitar in front of thousands of screaming fans. The 24-year-old UK native’s ascent bears certain similarities to his good friend and sometime collaborator Taylor Swift — another aw-shucks folkie type turned A-list pop star — except it came through improbable allies in the London grime scene instead of Nashville’s star-making factory. Sheeran secured his arrival in the contemporary pop pantheon with last year’s x (or “multiply”), which enlisted big-ticket producers Pharrell and Rick Rubin to essentially let Sheeran do what comes naturally — add subtle hip-hop inflections to his unabashedly romantic repertoire, an unusual but successful recipe that has become Sheeran’s signature as much as his tousled mop of ginger hair.