Since 2021’s release of their second record, The Greatest Mistake Of My Life, South Wales’ quartet Holding Absence have been on quite a tear. That album propelled them to dizzying heights and has seen their profile grow to become one of the most talked about bands in the UK. Despite this forward motion, this January the band took a look back however and returned to some of the venues where they first cut their teeth. They might have conquered stages and festivals around the country and even the world since the last time they were here, but could they still do it on a cold, rainy night in Stoke?
These days it’s unfortunately a little bit of a rarity to see a packed out Sugarmill, but the pull of one of the UKs most hyped bands fills the room out well ahead of Lizzy Farrell opening the show with her blend of upbeat pop-rock tunes. For a relatively new artist, Farrell has a tonne of presence, effortlessly engaging with the audience and making full use of the limited stage space available. The other members of her band seem to fade into the sidelines in comparison, but that’s to be expected with a solo act. Despite some early sound gremlins Farrell delivers a solid start to the night with the promise of more to come with an upcoming EP later this year.
Almost the odd ones out on the bill, main support comes from Aussie metalcore troupe Void of Vision. These lads really manage to get crowd going with all the troped you’ve come to expect from a modern metalcore band and frontman Jack Bergin really manages to capture the eye with an energetic performance alongside his stark appearance looking like an even more otherworldly Billy Corgan. Unfortunately the songs themselves all blend a little into one. There are breakdowns and mosh-calls a-plenty, and they certainly help to get things warmed up; but the more rave-like electronic moments where the band really threaten to show their own flair are few and far between.
As soon as Holding Absence take the stage though it’s obvious why everyone is here tonight. Every word from opener ‘Monochrome’ (and indeed most of the set) is yelled back with a fervour. Tonight’s set feels like a victory lap and celebration of everything the band has achieved up-to this point, with a surprisingly mixed song selection. Despite their main breakthrough coming in 2021, Holding Absence have been trooping up and down the country for many years prior, and the likes of ‘Wilt’ and ‘Like A Shadow’ slot right in at home alongside the more pristine sheen of ‘In Circles’ and ‘Birdcage’. It’s a rare treat for long-time fans of the band already, but the real memorable moment comes with closer ‘Penance’ highlighting what a journey this band have been on both as artists and as people. It’s also this moment which really highlights the power and importance of Lucas Woodland’s vocals to push their emotive rock to the next level. As customary by now, ‘Afterlife’ sends the entire room into a frenzy and further establishes itself as a modern classic before closing the night with the ever-impressive ‘Wilt’ and with a promise to return soon. It’s a romantic idea, but tonight already shows the Mill struggling to contain these songs, and with a new album surely on the way soon, it’s hard to imagine Holding Absence playing rooms this small too often in the future.
Photos by Jos Hurley