If you’ve ever been remotely into 21st Century hardcore then it’s most likely you know who Have Heart are, but for the uninitiated, they were one of the most key bands of the genre in the noughties and had a massive influence on the bands who succeeded them. Across their two LPs, ‘The Things We Carry’ and ‘Songs To Scream At The Sun’, they crafted the richest melodic hardcore anthems filled with themes of fortitude, overcoming addiction and mental health awareness.
They disbanded a decade ago but have returned for a handful of shows all around the world and the miracle workers of promoters, Outbreak, managed to bring them to Leeds. The date sold out instantly and this afternoon’s matinee show was added due to popular demand.
World Of Difference and Mil-Spec are solid, speedy hardcore with bite, but this is an occasion where support bands are gonna have to bring something really special to match the anticipation for the headliners. Local LS4 hardcore mob The Flex are able to whip the crowd in a frenzy and no doubt leave an impression with their clobbering two-stepping punk.
Have Heart take to the stage and there’s instant chills of anticipation. It’s a long moment, but the second they kick into ‘The Unbreakable’, it’s a whirlwind of blink-and-you’ll-miss (or get hit) scenes from there. Whether it’s the speedy riffs that crunch as much as they soar, the snappy rhythms or Flynn’s passionate messages of fortitude, there’s plenty in every element to get everyone moving. In particular for this track when it comes to the ‘just love the world, that won’t love you back’ line, it’s yelled by everyone.
The songs haven’t aged a day and there’s 10 years’ worth of hunger to experience these tracks live, whether you saw Have Heart when they were originally going or if these shows are your first chance. People are frantically scrumming to try grab the mic or circle around Flynn and there’s plenty of stage dives.
Flynn himself is on top form, regularly storming side-to-side, yelling in people’s faces whilst stage divers fly past. There are many moments where people bump, grab or full-on crash into him, but he always shakes it off and instantly gets back to belting out these melodic hardcore bangers.
Flynn also takes time between songs to speak of the importance of feminism as well as the tragedy of refugee kids being imprisoned. People often groan at politics being discussed at shows, wanting bands to just get on with the songs. However, Have Heart have always been on a mission to make the world a better place and these are important things to discuss; so here it only adds to the urgency and vitality of what Have Heart are delivering today.
Going back to the songs though, basically everything was a highlight. The song ‘Bostons’ sees Flynn detail his relationship with his father and the differences between them, in particularly Flynn’s straight edge lifestyle and the lifestyle of his father’s. When it gets to the gritted teeth snarl of ‘so I could be the boy you couldn’t be’ and its accompanying chord stabs, it makes for an intense snap of movement in an already intense and lively show.
‘Armed With A Mind’ likewise brings the mosh with its sledgehammer pounding, and Flynn screeching about the importance of the mind; how it beats muscle and should be nurtured rather than taken for granted. The neck-snapping breakdown of ‘The Machinist’ as well as its ‘I AM NOT, I AM NOT, I AM NOT MACHINE’ cry make for some of the deadliest sights this venue has probably ever seen.
When it comes to their final and most well-known track, it only takes Flynn stating that it’s their last song for people to know what’s coming and when it comes to that entering ‘GOD DAAAAMN’ of ‘Watch Me Rise’, it’s an instant rush to the front and unified yelling for people to get the best out of one of the best hardcore songs ever written.
The way this song captures the weight of poor mental health and just how you can feel yourself being pushed further and further down only to defiantly rise with statements like ‘In this world, they choose to see me, they choose to see me as a setting sun, so it’s up to me, I have to see me as a rising one’; it all makes for some of the most cathartic listening on record and today it’s probably one of the most therapeutic experiences of anyone’s life. Then there’s the building, limping ‘I’d rather die on my feet’ repetition before the erupting ‘THAN LIVE ON MY KNEES’ which, of course, sees people rushing to invade the stage ending the show with poor Flynn getting crushed by eager fans as they join him to chant ‘WATCH ME. WATCH ME. WATCH. ME. RISE.’
You couldn’t have asked for a better performance from Have Heart. Given the 10-year gap between now and when they initially called it quits, they probably would’ve been forgiven if they were a little on the slow side or still getting into the swing of things. That wasn’t at all the case though. This was like their break-up never even happened and they’re just as vital to hardcore as they ever were.
This show felt like a celebration, getting to experience these much beloved songs; but it didn’t feel like a nostalgia act. It felt like going forward, the way Have Heart’s messages still resonate and were delivered with such power.
It’s hard to tell if it’s just these shows for Have Heart or if they’ll be sticking around for a while. On the strength of today, no one would be complaining at the news of a new record or at least more shows. Either way though, today is going to be a cherished memory of those who attended for years to come.