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NME Awards Tour, Cardiff University ????? its 18th incarnation, the NME Awards Tour with its four-band touring format has come a long way since Veruca Salt headlined way back in 1995.

Along the way we've had such quirks as Amen and Andrew WK headlining (2001 and 2002 respectively), while future household names the The Vaccines, Kaiser Chiefs and Franz Ferdinand (2011, 2005 and 2004) were all bottom of the bill on their particular tours.

In the meantime, the NME itself may have ceased to dominate the scene quite as much as it once did, but it really does still matter, giving a much-needed platform to up-and-coming music in a landscape dominated by bland corporate pop.

This year's tour kicked off true to the NME ethos, with the supremely talented US rapper Azealia Banks, inset. Potty-mouthed to the point that even teen shock-fest Skins wouldn't play her fruitier moments, she's the voice behind the best track of last year - 212.

What her criminally short set lacked in time, it more than made up for in quality with a minimalist setting of just her and a DJ.

Barbie S*** was the first standout of the night, while her ad-libbed freestyle rapping during on-stage "technical difficulties" should serve as a warning to anyone who refuses to believe the hype. She left with a sublime version of 212 that morphed into a blistering snippet of Prodigy's Firestarter.

Next up came Tribes, a derivative four-piece from Camden who sounded like an anaemic version of Razorlight and spouted lyrics such as "My girlfriend doesn't love me/My haircut doesn't suit me". Which is all you need to know really.

And then the surprise of the night. Metronomy, with their eccentric electronica-inflected dance music (think Hot-ter Chip), epitomised the cliche of the band who, live, effortlessly transcend the sum of their parts. With beats sleazier than Soho on heat and more infectious than Typhoid Mary, they cemented their status as this year's must-see live band with post-rave anthem The Bay and the demented, hypnotic shuffling seaside Wurlitzer organ riff of The Look.

After that, Two Door Cinema Club couldn't fail to be anything other than an anti-climax.

Sure, the crowd went wild for their jangly ad-friendly happy brand of indie pop firmly in the Vampire Weekend and Franz Ferdinand mould. They were slick, shiny and polished in what was essentially an album run-through (highlights: What You Know and I Can Talk) with a couple of new tracks thrown in.

And, sure, they oozed commercial appeal in spades. But when it comes to providing a platform for the new, the surprising and the challenging, the night belonged firmly to Metronomy and Banks. * Tryst Williams


* Metronomy and, inset, US rapper Azealia Banks
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Feb 21, 2012
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