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NME Tour: Goodbye guitars, hello harps

PUBLISHED: 08:36 11 February 2009 | UPDATED: 15:40 29 October 2010

Simon Parkin

The NME Awards Tour is frequently a barometer of where music is heading, and this year's indie guitars are out and electro and pop - the quirkier the better - is in. SIMON PARKIN reports.

The NME Awards Tour is frequently a barometer of where music is heading, and this year's indie guitars are out and electro and pop - the quirkier the better - is in. SIMON PARKIN reports.

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Having been graced by everyone from Coldplay to Kaiser Chiefs, Arctic Monkeys to The Killers, the line-up of the annual NME Shockwaves NME Awards Tour has a habit of catapulting bands to stardom.

Either that or the promoters have crafty knack of spotting artists who are obviously months away from a major breakthrough to put on the bill.

Whichever way it works - and it's worth noting there are as many who've disappeared without trace as hit the big time, Campag Velocet anyone? - the four band line-ups are always a barometer of what's setting pulses racing at the cutting edge of music - or least music you'll see in the NME.

This year the big news is that, after years of domination, indie guitar bands are having a tough time. A slew of unremarkable indentikit bands - memorably dubbed “landfill indie” - have wearied the gig going public into seeking something a little more adventurous. So this year's bill boasts not a single conventional guitar band.

Furthest from that convention is opener Florence and the Machine who favour harps, percussion and the Kate Bush-meets-Kate Nash warbling of singer Florence Welch.

White Lies really need no introduction having already hit the number one spot with their self-titled debut album, a mixture of booming bass lines and synth that harks back to the likes of Joy Division and Echo and the Bunnymen.

Friendly Fires do use guitars, but only as a accompaniment to their cowbell bashing indie dance-funk party tunes. And they're on that most noble of missions to wean indie ears back on to horn sections.

Most conventional - loosely speaking - are tour headliners Glasvegas who having been one of the most hyped bands of last year don't really qualify as ones-to-watch. Their mix of Jesus and Mary Chain shades and feedback with pure Spectoral pop make it a diverse line-up - and all the better for it.

t Shockwaves NME Awards Tour is at the UEA on Thursday. Return tickets only. 01603 508050. More details: www.nme.com/awards

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