Billy Butler (BBC Broadcaster): “They’re knockout! Fabulous! That’s why I’ve been playing them regularly on my show.”
Bill Heckle (Cavern Club owner): “Brilliant! When are they coming back?”
Alan Cowsill (Marvel Comics writer/editor): “It was a fantastic night. The most emotional and uplifting gig I’ve ever seen. You’re all doing amazing things…”
Chris Parks (Neurosurgeon Alder Hey Children’s Hospital): “Incredible show at the Cavern and Chyler and Nathan were wonderful with the children at the hospital.”
Jane England (Craniofacial Nurse Specialist Alder Hey): “The children in the ward got so much from Chyler and Nathan’s visit. They haven’t stopped talking about it.”
Indie Mae (Mother of Rowan LW): “Chyler and Nathan have such a wonderful energy and Rowan picked up on that for sure! The concerts were a wonderful achievement.”
Miss Liverpool 2018: “Dead boss that!”
Tim Quinn: “Chyler and Nathan have done so much for the children of Merseyside over the last two years. They are an inspiration and show we can all Create Change for the better in our community and across our planet. One word: Love.”
CHYLER AND NATHAN IN LIVERPOOL
What a week! About 2,000 miles beyond cool. Kicked off on Monday 21st May. Chyler and Nathan were motoring down from their gig the night before in Newcastle to meet me at a bookshop in a suburb of Liverpool. I was motoring in from Preston where I had been giving a talk to the Lady Flower Arrangers of the North West of England. I kid you not. How Rock & Roll am I? Don’t answer that. I reached Write Blend Bookshop in South Road, Waterloo, Liverpool 22 early at 5pm just as my mobile rang. It was Chyler to say they were speeding through Manchester and would be with me bang on the dot of 6. Time for a coffee at the World’s Greatest Book Shop. By 6 I was back out on the street ready to wave them in to a suitable car parking space. With a honking of horn, waving of hands and beaming smiles Chyler and Nathan pulled up at the kerb. Hugs, more hugs and then some more hugs. As we walked together to the bookshop a memory came flashing back from the 1950’s when I had walked this very street and bought my first DC comic book. Wouldn’t you know it, it was the origin of Supergirl. And now here I was walking down the same street with her sis!
We’d arranged the meet at the bookshop so I could interview the pair for a local TV station. I’d expected a fairly swift run through of their life and current projects but the interview took a fascinating turn 2 questions in. Stay tuned for the actual interview which I’ll be sharing soonish! A full couple of hours of extraordinary insights into this extraordinary couple. The film crew, Bob the bookshop owner, Liverpool Heartbeat’s Robin & Bren, and The FAB 4000’s leader Jayne Massey and Mum were all gripped by the revelations.
After the interview, Chyler and Nathan sang a couple of numbers just for Jayne. I have to say, the rest of us listened in too. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. So then I found out that the dynamic duo hadn’t eaten since the night before so I took them off for a swift pizza before they headed off to a hotel having to be up bright and early the following morning to collect their kids as they arrived at Manchester Airport.
By 10:50 the following morning, I was waiting outside BBC Radio Merseyside on a perfect early summer day. Chyler, Nathan and I were set to take to the airwaves at 11:20am on the Sean Styles show as a promotion for Thursday’s Cavern gigs. I was standing with Wonder Dad Craig LW, Pa of wee Rowan himself. Intros are made as Chyler and Nathan come running across the road and we head inside. While Nathan proudly shows his beautiful guitar to ace guitarist Craig, I wave Chyler towards the BBC’s pet Dalek in the entranceway. “Got to get a photo of you with the Dalek.” “Okay,” said Chyler, putting her arms round Skaro’s finest and planting a kiss on his eye stalk. “Erm…do you know about the Daleks?” I ask. “No,” sand Chyler. “Well they are based on the Nazis.” “OH!” Chyler immediately adopts a much more aggressive fisticuffs pose against Davros’s child.
The interview was fun as always. Sean’s a good egg. Chyler’s Red Red Robin went bob-bob-bobbin’ along very nicely and sounded particularly effective through my BBC headphones. Heading back out into the sunshine I realised that my American friends hadn’t really seen much of Liverpool in the daylight so Craig and I took them on a whistle stop tour down to the River Mersey and back for a few souvenir snaps for the West Family Album.
Spotting an old fashioned telephone box, I set up a pic with Chyler inside and Nathan waiting impatiently outside. Chyler soon regretted picking up the telephone as it didn’t look as if it had been cleaned since Victorian days.
On the Wednesday, I headed over to Manchester’s Ruby Lounge (thanks to Kirstie on wheels!) where I’d organised for the landmine clearing organisation, MAG, to turn up and shake their collecting buckets at the East of Eli concert. Both Chyler and Nathan had been won over by the work the MAG folk do all around our globe, saving lives every day. Lovely folk who got on well with Chyler, Nathan and the audience. Fabulous show, goes without saying. Boy, has that band developed since last I saw them exactly one year ago! Incredible performance, songwriting, spirit and connection to each and every member of that audience. Huge shout to Karoline who commandeered one of the MAG buckets and raised a very healthy amount.
Only one slight mar to the evening came when a jobsworth bouncer or venue manager was determined everyone would leave the building bang on 10:30pm. “Out! Out! Everyone out now!” Can’t beat a bit of British charm to welcome our American visitors. Kirstie and I head off leaving a still dripping wet Nathan ushering Chyler back to the hotel across Manchester’s tramways. Tomorrow was the Big Day down the Cavern Club, and I’ll write that up shortly…
Thursday 24th May 2018
2pm found us carrying East of Eli’s guitars, drums and merchandise down the 1,000 steps into the legendary Cavern Club. Already the fans were queueing up, creating a warm, friendly and excited atmosphere in the cellar of cellars. Jayne Massey, FAB 4000 inspiration, joined us in the Cavern Lounge for the sound check. She’d come complete in costume as designed by the FAB’s Russ Leach, but decided to leave guide dog Witney at home away from the hi-fi sounds.
The usual runaround backstage – drinks in dressing room fridge. More drinks in dressing room fridge. Guitar strings changed. Set list scribbled upon. Name check list for certain people in the audience. “Is the audience in?” “Yep!” “Let’s do it!” I walk out on the stage as MC for the night. Always a buzz to be on that particular stage but tonight is extra special. Looking down into the sea of happy, expectant faces I know we are all linked by our love for the band and the occasion. Intro over, the audience need little prompting to “take the roof off” with their appreciation as the band walk on stage. The acoustic set. Every song goes straight to the heart. I can think of no band I’ve ever seen that I can compare to East of Eli. They are unique. Nathan’s words hit young and old alike across the audience. The band performance is breathtaking. And the words between each song strike home and remain for life with everyone in that cellar. A lovely moment or three as Nathan thanks Jayne Massey for her inspiration to both him and Chyler. This is followed by a call out to Mr Chris Parks, the neurosurgeon from Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. Chris did the amazing surgery on little Rowan LW a couple of months ago. Chris is in the audience with his kids. As soon as Nathan describes the work done by Chris, the audience erupts in applause and love. I could see that Mr Parks was quite overwhelmed by the response.
Beautiful number after beautiful number follow one after the other. Uplifting and all embracing. This is so much more than a concert. It is a true Love-In. I spot Billy Butler, BBC broadcaster, well in the groove at the back of the audience, a broad smile lighting up his face. Billy has seen it all in music since the start of his career at the Cavern Club back in Beatle days. “They’re knockout!” he says. Billy has been playing East of Eli on his show for over a year now. As the first show comes to an end, I take him backstage to meet Chyler and Nathan. Like minds meeting up. The photo says it all. 3 faces beaming like suns.
And now the race is on. We have the Meet & Greet to fit in between show 1 and show 2. Can it be done on time? Of course not! Chyler and Nathan take so much time with each Meeter and Greeter that they overrun into sound check time for the full band second show. Plans have to be made to finish off the Greeting after show 2. Bless ‘em, the fans take this alteration in their stride without a single “WTF?” I’d never realised there were so many nice people on this planet. And here they all were down in Liverpool’s Cavern Club awaiting show #2. By now the guest stars had arrived for the evening. Rowan’s Dad’s band, Strangers Club. Chyler and Nathan had invited them to play after hearing about Rowan’s surgery and, of course, checking them out on Youtube!
The full band show rocked the rafters as Chyler and Nathan moved and smoothed and electrified the audience, a sea of flushed, smiling faces. And Strangers Club gave the audience a taste of original Mersey Beat, winning them over with four stompers. As Nathan introduced little Rowan bopping away in the audience, every heart was stolen. I noticed the just crowned Miss Liverpool had joined the crowd, still wearing her sash. Her gleaming smile got ever bigger and more Pepsodenty with each number.
The show closed with East of Eli inviting Strangers Club back on stage for a full 2-band rip-roaring version of The Beatles classic, ‘I Saw Her Standing There’. That Chyler can certainly bop!
Of course, I couldn’t let Chyler and Nathan depart without giving them a sign of appreciation for the incredible work and kindness they have done for two years now on behalf of the children of Merseyside. Together with Robin Baynes of Liverpool Heartbeat I presented them with a symbol of the spirit of Liverpool, the legendary Liver Bird in statue form. I trust that bird will ensure they make many journeys back to Liverpool in the future. Chyler informed us that she has been wanting a pet for a long time!
Throughout the two concerts Nathan and Chyler had encouraged fans to be generous in their support of the FAB 4000 projects I’d created with Liverpool Heartbeat for disadvantaged Merseyside kids and the craniofacial ward at Alder Hey hospital. Were they generous? Need you ask? Any expectations we’d had were multiplied off the scale by the superb kindness of those two audiences. And then Nathan said he’d triple the amount. It’s Love I tell you! Oh, I must make mention of the kindness of DC Comics who sent over a huge box of super-hero merchandise to The FAB 4000 to hand over to the children at Alder Hey Hospital. Nathan had had the brilliant idea of suggesting to the audience at both shows that they might like to purchase each item to give as a present to the hospital children. Talk about a double-whammy!
Back out on the streets of Liverpool before midnight, it was nice to see so many very, very, very happy East of Eli t-shirt wearers heading off to to their hotels. The following day I would be joining the band as they headed for a special performance at Alder Hey hospital.
THE VISIT Friday 25th May 2018
I’ll be honest with you. I really didn’t think it would work. As you will be aware if you read the odd post here, inspired by little Rowan LW and working closely with FAB charity Liverpool Heartbeat, I’d mentioned to Chyler and Nathan the amazing life saving work done at Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. Immediately they suggested helping raise money for the craniofacial fund via their gigs at the Cavern Club. All very good but then Nathan came up with the idea of also heading out to meet and play for the kids at the hospital. I honestly couldn’t see how this could work. I mean, the children at the hospital are either ill or in the process of recovering from a serious illness. Love Chyler and Nathan as much as I do, I wasn’t sure that the patients would be up for either a chat or a song. And, a lot of them might not even know who these funny accented people are!
HOW WRONG WAS I?!?
As soon as we arrived at the hospital it became obvious that every nurse and doctor were huge fans of Lexie Grey, the character Chyler had played to enormous success in the long running TV series ‘Grey’s Anatomy’. I’ve never seen so many excitedly flushed nurses and doctors as when Chyler took to the wards. And as for the children, it was as if their dearest and most loved family members had turned up when Chyler and Nathan sat at their bedsides and engaged them all in lengthy chats filled with many laughs and hugs.
The magical pair had brought the huge box of goodies kindly sent over by DC Comics to distribute to each child. These went over beautifully well, even with the diehard Marvel fan! Both Chyler and Nathan were bowled over by the atmosphere of the hospital and the general happiness of each patient. This is so true and Alder Hey is certainly a remarkable place thanks to the extraordinary work of all nurses, doctors and surgeons. It is also true that Chyler and Nathan should be bottled and made available on the NHS!
And so Europe beckoned, but not before losing passports. But that’s another story…