Sitting on top of rehearsal studios on the outskirts of Birmingham’s city centre and known more for its club nights, the Asylum has hosted many big acts from around the world in its 600 capacity venue. Today was the last UK date of Vuur’s European tour, fronted by ex-The Gathering and Devin Townsend Project vocalist, Anneke van Giersbergen. However, it wasn’t in its 600 capacity venue. Instead, the show was to be held in its small upstairs side room, Asylum 2. It came as a surprise to see the queue winding up the narrow stairs and band members apologising as they squeezed by to get to the stage. The idea of seeing such an amazing vocalist perform just a few feet away in a small venue by far outweighs the crushing disappointment of photographing a gig in near darkness. The struggle was real, but in this instance it was certainly worth it.
The room was full and everyone was in lively spirits as they continually pushed closer and closer to the stage barrier. It was nice actually having a blockade in such a small venue, from a photographer’s point of view (as well the artist’s) it’s very much appreciated.
I was not really aware of Vuur’s material before the show announcement meaning I had no expectations at all on arrival. What I witnessed though was pure euphoria in a bottle. Every riff and melody was soaked in a feelgood vibe. The vocals were heavenly in so many ways and the diversity within them kept you keenly waiting to see where you would be taken next. In parts, they fluttered above a progressive metal backing that felt heavy and emotive. In others, the vocals reached dazzling heights, operatically, over ecstasy inspired rhythms. The power emitted from each band member left the crowd stunned on more than one occasion.
The musicianship was flawless. Lead guitar solo breaks as displayed in “Freedom-Rio” were perfectly executed far beyond a technical aspect. The drumming was precise and energetic, marrying the wholesome tone released from the just-as-mechanical bass lines. The songs themselves didn’t seem to feel overly dragged out either, something I personally find with a lot of progressive music. However, I did get the impression that some progressive, disjointed rhythms over the top of these beautiful melodies only served as a reminder to everyone that this band is an alt-prog band. They didn’t feel out of place at all, but just slightly superfluous. That being said, these moments were still very good and were a decent supplement to the weighty measures of the band.
A stunning rendition of Chris Cornell’s “Like A Stone” was performed acoustically half way through the set and was met with silence as the final note rang out across Asylum 2. A beautiful silence. The crowd was really taken by the moment and it required us all to take a second to find ourselves back in the room.
Anneke’s charm continued to shine through the entire evening. After the acoustic cover, a ukulele was brought out to the stage for her next solo performance and as she began to play, the music suddenly stopped as Anneke quickly apologised to the audience as she had to recompose herself to remember the song’s progression. This was laughed off by the room and Anneke exclaimed that 20 years ago artists could get away with making mistakes on stage but thanks to mobile phones and YouTube, it’s become much harder to get away with. Of course, people reviewing the show and writing about it doesn’t help matters either…
Overall, the crowd were treated to a stunning performance where beautiful vocals as heard in “Paris” were matched with technical and incredibly uplifting progressive metal. Since attending the show, Vuur’s album In This Moment We Are Free – Cities has been on a never ending repeat. I feel lucky to have seen them perform in this venue as there is no doubt in my mind; they will not be on these small stages for much longer.
Photos by Watchmaker Studios