Date: Saturday 10th July 2021
Venue: Portland House, Cardiff
– – – – –
With the pandemic restrictions seemingly coming to an end the age of livestream shows will no doubt follow, but before that there was one last big one to see it off in style. The Greatest Mistake of my Life, Live and In Colour with Holding Absence taking to Portland House in Cardiff to perform their recently dropped album of the same name. With the album already sitting towards the very top of my Album of the Year list, I’m sure it will come as no surprise to know that this was certainly going to be an exciting show and with the added extras of Vocals from Caitlin Woodland, Guitars from Toby Evans (Casey), and Keys and Piano work from Arwel Brown (Nightlives) this was set to be a very special evening.
Unfortunately for the band, an issue with stream caused the video to lag throughout however the audio recording still sounded perfect. On the Video On Demand version of the stream this issue had been sorted, so for all those that didn’t see it through you can go back and watch it all as intended. But as the event started and the bands imagery appeared on the screen with flowers and candles over a crackling and flickering sound, the anticipation built brilliantly until the ambient piano intro of ‘Awake’ kicked in to action to take over immediately setting the mood for the rest of tonight’s performance. Camera pans around the room showed just how many people were involved in tonight show before they focused in on vocalist Lucas Woodland for the opening of ‘Celebration Song’. His cry of “I’m Alive” ripped through the music and it was clear from that moment that Holding Absence had come all guns blazing this evening. The additional backing vocals of tonight’s performance by Caitlin Woodland were immediately put to great effect adding extra depth to the chorus. Little tweaks like this showed off the thought and passion put on in to playing the live shows on top of the studio performances. After a brief introduction the band launched straight into the emotional powerhouse that is ‘Curse Me with Your Kiss’. The expansive setting of Portland House in Cardiff fit perfectly with the album and added an extra depth to the track. Usually a band can take a couple of songs to get warmed in to a live set but Holding Absence wasted no time with the whole band putting in a solid performance. The crossover of the Woodland siblings really made for an impactful fade at the end of the song contrasting each other perfectly.
As the title card from arguably their biggest single ‘Afterlife’ popped up, you could feel the excitement in the air. And whilst it’s hard to gauge the crowd feeling from a livestream, both the Veeps chat and twitter were full of people who were clearly on board with the show and singing along at home. Being one of the few tracks from ‘The Greatest Mistake of my Life’ that had already been played live, this didn’t limit the impact of it and it served as a moment of elation through the show before the darker tones dropped through with ‘Drugs and Love’. A spoken word recorded introduction sat brilliantly before the full band kicked in. If there was ever a track to show off Lucas’s phenomenal vocals then this is definitely it. While the rest of the band created weaving tones below, his vocals soared above and really showed what the band do so well with their unique sound. With the emotion flowing out, it’s certainly exciting to imagine what this will sound like with a full crowd singing along to every word at a live show. However just like that, it faded out to another section of spoken word to end the track off yet keeping the feeling matched for the final single – ‘In Circles’. When the song first dropped I wasn’t instantly sold on in however as with every track on the album it grew on me the more I listened to it and by the time it came to the track in tonight’s setlist, I was excited to hear what the band did with it live. The building keys and guitar work of Arwel Brown and Toby Evans created a fantastic atmosphere and really highlighted just how much impact the song could have despite it being one of the slower more brooding tracks of the album.
With that said, the crashing drums of Ashley Green signalled the start of ‘Nomoreroses’ perfectly. Now I may be biased given its one of my favourites from the album, but the performance seemed to step up a gear for the track. Extra passion through the visceral shouts of Scott Carey and the additional vocals from Caitlin created an incredible combination to work around the main vocals. With everything coming to a head as the song went on, it was almost a cathartic release as the band reached the lyrics “I never believed in you because you never believed in me” and then faded to an outro of keys. After a moment of reflection Holding Absence then launched into the first single from the album ‘Beyond Belief’. Again this was another track shown off as part of their performance in The K! Pit (link here for those that want to see that!), however as with ‘Afterlife’ this performance turned everything up to eleven. As mentioned earlier around Ash’s drumming, this song served as a perfect opportunity to show off his incredible skills and just how much it adds to the sound of the band as a whole. With their big singles out of the way, things temporarily slowed down for Lucas to thank the three additional members for tonight’s performance before the piano lead into ‘Die Alone (In Your Lover’s Arms)’ the surprise track from the album that first introduced us to the amazing vocals of Caitlin. Her performance here mirrored the album perfectly and really shone as one of the moments from the stream. With a completely different sound to the rest of the album, the track stands out on the album but in arguably the best way as it draws all the attention of the listener when it starts. This will certainly go down as one of Holding Absence’s most popular tracks in the future I’m sure.
As the ambient tones and spoken word returned for ‘Phantoms’ and Lucas spoke of the excitement of returning to shows it was clear even more so why the track was put into the album in this exact location to allow a breather and to prepare for the huge 7 minute epic that is ‘Mourning Song’. And with ‘Mourning Song’ flowing through the speakers there was no greater way to end the night’s show than with the song that shows off just how far Holding Absence have come as a band over the years. Despite its length, the turns and dives of the track stop it ever dragging and it’s almost over before you know it. The atmosphere it builds, the power behind the vocals, the emotion flowing through the song… if there was ever a Holding Absence track that you would want to show someone then this would be the one. Just perfection and as with everything else from the livestream, the internet crowd were matching the feeling perfectly with people raving about it all throughout the track. And as the screen faded to black and cut to Lucas and Arwel with just a piano to play the outro track ‘The Greatest Mistake of My Life’, it really showed what a fantastic piece of art the album was and just what an incredible job the band have done with the album.
With goosebumps left on my arm and the screen falling back to the flower imagery, I was left to reflect on the incredible performance that I had spent the last 50 minutes watching. As mentioned at the start with the joy of this being one of the final livestreams, it was only a matter of minutes before I restarted the show to experience it all over again. In fact this review served nicely as yet another excuse (not that I needed it!) to watch it through a few more times. It’s not very often that a band as special as Holding Absence come along, and having the pleasure of following them since they supported Blood Youth back in Early 2017, it really is amazing to see the growth in the band and yet keeping to what makes them so unique. This is a band that are going far and each new performance brings in a whole new bunch of fans which is fantastic to see. With their recent show at the Download Festival Pilot and both a tour supporting Creeper and their own headline tour later in 2021, I’m sure this will be yet another incredible year for the band. If you haven’t already got tickets to either of these tours then I’d certainly recommend getting on that before they inevitably sell out. With just a taster of what their live shows are like tonight, after nearly two years of no gigs why not treat yourselves to one for the best bands you’ll ever see!!