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information highway

THE INFORMATION HIGHWAY LIVE IN LIVERPOOL – WHAT HAPPENED?

It’s funny sometimes how, on first glance things might seem to be polar opposites, yet when you dig a little deeper, they aren’t really all that different at all. So, on Saturday night, we were at the mighty new Co-op Live arena watching The Eagles on their 28th farewell tour (or something like that). We weren’t THAT far away from the stage, but even if we had been, the incredible video screens and sound system would have meant that we wouldn’t really have missed too much.

The upper tiers stretched off into the darkness, so far back that we couldn’t see their occupants, except when they lit up their phones and waved them in the air. Big. Huge. Ginormous. Compare and contrast that, Dear Reader, with a trip to The Caven Pub and The Cavern Club in a city far, far away (well, OK, just down the M62, but you know where I mean). Much smaller, and with stages so close you could have reached out and touched the artistes (although I’m pretty sure there are laws against that sort of thing these days). 

So, why the (Go) compare? Simply put, it’s all down to what you see on those stages. The Eagles have been around in one form or another for 40-odd years. The various members of The Information Highway have also been performing in many incarnations (“From East Manchester and proud of it – a keyboard and guitar based indie band with 250 years of musical experience” as they’ve previously described themselves), too ,

One thing they BOTH have in common, is a bond of friendship and a desire to bring their particular brand of musical happiness to as many people as possible, so when we were offered the chance to accompany the happy gang that is The Information Highway to that there Liverpool on their own little Magical Mystery Tour how could we possibly refuse? 

Photographer Girl and Your Humble Reviewer are up bright and early on Sunday morning (a very rare phenomenon, it must be said), heading just east of the centre of Manchester to join a minibus of mayhem heading for twentieth annual occurrence of The International Pop Overthrow (it would have been the 22nd, had it not been for The Rona),

With acts split between the world-famous Cavern Club and its neighbour, (just across the street!) The Caven Pub. However, Leigh “Kyter” Kyte (vocals and rhythm guitar),  Lee Gallagher (lead guitar and backing vocals), Joe Best (drums), Lee “Wimp” Wimpleton (bass and backing vocals) and Jeff Wood (keyboards) plan to go one better today by playing BOTH venues with a gap of only an hour and a quarter in between!

Today’s performances are wittily branded as “The Red Set” and “The Blue Set”, a nod to some Liverpool band or other’s fabled “Greatest Hits” compilations, the latter of which I purchased from my Mum’s Kay’s catalogue (and NO, I DIDN’T look on THOSE pages either… well OK, maybe just a bit…) in 1974 for the princely sum of £3.99, or 20p a week for what felt like a VERY long number of weeks. 

We make it to the bus (Gus) with minutes to spare and pile on board with Kyter and Lee Gal, whilst the rest of the band drive there separately with all their gear. There seems to be WAY too much alcohol accompanying us for a journey of less than hour, but hey, who’s counting, as the LEDs are switched on and the music is turned up, and we make our noisy way to the M62. There’s a buzz of anticipation in the bus as we pass the sign for Huyton, accompanied by a cry of, “Bandit country!” from Gal, and a whoop of humorous disdain from everyone else. 

We finally arrive at the end of Mathew Street and pile out down the stairs to the depths of The Cavern Pub, where today’s Blue Set is scheduled to be performed at 13:30. The Information Highway have been working on three songs over the last few months, and I’ve been privileged to be allowed access to them from embryonic form, right through to the finished product, by way of a few trips to their rehearsal rooms and some sneaky listens to assorted mixes, which has been great fun too.

These three are “Let You Down” and “Lazy Days”, which appear in both sets today and “Touch the Sky” which features in just The Caven Club’s Red Set. Photographer Girl and I return from a sneaky Spoons lunch, just in time for the start of the Blue Set, and it’s all systems go – let’s see what these boys have got! 

“Good afternoon- we’re the Information Highway and we’re from Manchester – we’re gonna do five or six numbers and we hope you enjoy them”, Gal tells the crowd, and with that, we’re off into the lush dreaminess of, “Lift Your Head”. One of the things I’ve always loved about these lads’ music is the fact that you can hear SO many influences floating around in their songs, but it’s hardly surprising, given their, ahem, shall we say, vintage.

The Beatles, The Kinks and The Stones lurk around in there for sure, but so do The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, The Charlatans, Primal Scream and even new Order – there really is something in there for everyone, no matter what your age – they just flit effortlessly across the decades and Jeff’s keyboards particularly contribute to the timelessness of their songs. 

“The Caverns, no less, how fcukin’ mad is THAT?”, Gal asks the audience as we launch into “The Game” – there’s no time to waste on too much audience banter this afternoon, but the crowd already look like they’re invested in today’s performance, despite any so-called Manchester-Liverpool rivalry – music really knows NO boundaries, and this song sounds like it could be being played today or sixty years ago, with just a hint of “Jumping Jack Flash” seeping into (and maybe out of) the brickwork. 

“How’re we all doing?” asks the ever-exuberant Gal. “This next one is our next single – or maybe one of them…?” To date, they haven’t quite decided on the sequence in which the three newest tracks are to be released, but they’re all as good as each other, so it won’t be a problem. “I won’t let you down, yes I’ll be around, for as long as you want me in” promises Kyter, as  Jeff’s keyboards take us back to the past with a nod to, “Let’s Spend the Night Together”, whilst a certain Mr Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun” cheekily nips in and out of the guitarwork.

It’s a song with deep personal meaning to Kyter, who dedicates it to his Mum when it comes to an end, but it’s also a very telling song for these five mates, who you just know would have each other’s backs, come what may – you only need to sit in on their banter-filled rehearsals, or catch them outside a gig to confirm this. Many moons ago, I wrote, “They have a wonderful, baggy, wraparound sound that makes me want nothing more than to be in their gang”, and you just know they wouldn’t let YOU down either. 

“Ere, Pete?”, Gal yells across – “It IS ‘My Life’ next on that playlist, isn’t it?” – whilst every table and wall appear to be festooned with red and blue flyers showing each setlist, they appear to have forgotten to take a couple on stage with them! I give Gal the thumbs up and off they go. “My Life” slows down the pace with some mournful keyboards from Jeff and a melody reminiscent of The Spencer Davis’s “Keep on Running” or maybe even Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”.

I never know whether my ridiculously long musical memory (but can I remember why I came into the kitchen – ABSOLUTELY not) is a blessing or a curse, but at least it helps me to get down what I hear to paper, so all good, I guess. Kyter pours his heart and soul into his singing, which is exactly how it should be, and the majority of the Sunday afternoon crowd hang off his every word, which is ALSO how it should be. 

Kyter searches around his bag for his harmonica, much to Gal’s amusement, announcing that his mate, “Forgot his bum bag, so had to bring a big man bag instead – performance art, man – you can’t beat it – ‘Man rummaging in bag’”. Harmonica located, Jeff brings us in with some very church-y-sounding keyboards that sound as though they might even be taking us into Dire Straits “Walk of Life” territory, but thankfully don’t.

“The One” is another slow-paced number that teases Hot Chocolate’s “I Believe in Miracles” (but if it was sung by a gospel choir, maybe) out of my overworked synapses. Joe on drums and Lee on bass stay largely out of the limelight, but are two vital components of the show nonetheless, providing an ever-present and dependable backdrop to their colleagues up front. 

Kyter thanks us all for coming down and points us in the direction of the Red Set over the road “It’s a different set”, he points out, by way of encouragement before launching into the Blue Set’s closer, new track “Lazy Days”. It’s blues-y, it’s happy, it’s upbeat, with more harmonica and some 60’s sounding keyboards thrown in for good measure, and the audience are by now bouncing around happily. “Lazy days in June, the Summer’s gone too soon” – thank goodness today isn’t over yet – the party’s just getting started! 

At 15:15, we’re all ready and eager in the Cavern Club, for the second part of today’s adventure. “Any Mancs in today?”, asks Gal, which is received with many cheers as the drum machine into to ”Touch the Sky” kicks in. This is a song to make you wind your windows down and roll back your sunroof, and if you don’t have a convertible, this wonderful, sunny, summery song should be the only reason you need to log onto Autotrader and look for one.

“I get high, I touch the sky!” chime Kyter, Gal and Lee, and to can see that they actually do. The song’s false ending catches everyone in the crowd out and they burst into applause before Jeff’s Primal Scream-y keyboards and Kyter’s tambourine kick in for one last verse. Gorgeous. 

“That’s going to be our next single, available soon wherever you get your records, or you can get it on tape wherever you get your tapes”, announces Gal, as we drift effortlessly into today’s second outing for “Let You Down”, delivered with ever MORE enthusiasm than the first time, if that’s possible, again dedicated to Kyter’s Mum, and equally warmly received by this crowd. 

One of my personal favourites, “Silver” is next, not least because its opening bass and guitar intro remind me of New Order’s “Ceremony”. I remarked on this to Gal on the bus on the way over, to which he archly replied, “We still owe Tony Wilson money, too” – I wisely chose not to pursue that one, though it’s definitely a story for another day.

The strings take me back to a spring day in March 1981, running down to Piccadilly Records (when it still WAS in Piccadilly, too) hoping Ceremony had arrived, as Factory Records deliveries were notoriously unreliable. This song is a wonderful tribute to forty-odd years ago, but happily stands on its own feet today too. Thanks for making a (relatively) old man very happy, fellas. 

Next up is “Billy Liar”, which, like “Silver” that precedes it and “Tightrope” that follows it, only appears in the Red Cavern Club set, and launches straight into bassline, guitar and piano sounds which would have The Charlatans and Primal Scream sniffing the air appreciatively “He’ll give it to ya!” – well, he’s certainly giving it to ME – it’s like I’m getting part of my youth back. Lee Wimp’s thumping bassline and Joe’s pounding drums deliver us unto,

“Tightrope”, which is another track that could have come from the guitar-y part of New Order’s back catalogue, especially with those silky keyboard lines, but again, it stands firmly on its own two monstrous rock ‘n’ roll feet, a testament to the depth and quality of the material that The Information Highway are able to produce – plus, they actually look like they’re enjoying themselves into the bargain. 

The Red Set closing number is “Lazy Days”, same as it was over the road, but this time, Kyter has a few words to say. There’s a shout out to Dave and Rina, the driving force behind International Pop Overthrow for having them back at The Cavern again, to those of us who’ve followed them down from Manchester, and to everyone else in today’s crowd.

There’s no real need to ask if we’ve enjoyed ourselves, but he does anyway and the response is pretty much as you’d expect. Kyter goes on to tell us that there are two men who have given him the inspiration to play music – one is John Lennon, and the other is his dad, who’s with us in the audience today.

“Without him, I wouldn’t be doing this, so it’s YOUR fault!”, he yells, affectionately before they launch into the set closer, during which there are the obligatory introductions to the members of the band, and a request for us to put our hands in the air, with which we willingly comply. 

And so, our trip to Liverpool is complete, as we bound back upstairs and back onto the bus to take us home, with Oasis blaring at the good citizens of Liverpool through as many windows as we are able to open. As well as having had a damned good time, what have we learned today?– well, to paraphrase The Eagles’ Joe Walsh, whilst the members of The Information Highway may well not have a mansion (forget the price), their dedication to their craft, and their desire to bring a bit of happiness to their fans (and to drag up a few memories in the process) is just as much the equal of their American counterparts.

And let’s be fair, who needs Don Henley when we have our very own Boys of Summer sitting on the doorstep? To the next gig, fellas, and thank you for letting me be a very small (but nonetheless enthusiastic) part of your gang! 

The Information Highway Played:

The Cavern Pub (The Blue Set): Lift Your Head, The Game, Let You Down, My Life, The One and Lazy Days 

The Cavern Club (The Red Set): Touch The Sky, Let You Down, Silver, Billy Liar, Tightrope and Lazy Days, 

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