Dirty old men
LISTEN to the Pogues and it won't be long before thoughts turn inevitably to the imbibing of massive amounts of alcohol.
Their toxic blend of punk, rock and traditional Irish music has quite rightly been described as "drunk rock" and their dishevelled leader and founder - Shane McGowan - embodies the spirit of a band as legendary for their drinking sessions as their musical prowess.
But, as the band's mandolin and banjo player Terry Woods insists, the overall impression of the Pogues' excesses are rather exaggerated.
"Shane drinks but he doesn't drink anything like the perception," giggles Terry when asked if the impression of McGowan drinking gin and tonic out of a vase before a gig is a correct one.
"That was always the case for all of us, but your reputation goes ahead of you. Fans come up to you and present you with a bottle of whisky, then they want you to drink it with them. But it's before a gig and you just can't do it. We fell into the trap of doing it before and ended up regretting it when we played!"
So it'll be a relatively un-oiled Pogues who take to the stage on Monday night in the Cardiff International Arena - the first date on their latest pre-Christmas reunion tour featuring the classic line-up of Shane, Terry, Philip Chevron, Darryl Hunt, Spider Stacey, Andrew Ranken and James Fearnley.
As you may have heard too, Cerys Matthews will be joining the band onstage for a rendition their Christmas classic Fairytale Of New York. Cerys will be singing the late, great Kirsty McColl's part and is an ideal candidate because "of her lived-in voice", as Terry puts it.
Fans should expect a party atmosphere at the gig, which will see the band run through their most famous songs including Fiesta, Irish Rover, Dirty Old Town and A Rainy Night In Soho.
And in the new year, the band might just be putting together some new material. "I've actually shelved my own projects for the time being because the Pogues thing is beginning to take off a bit," explains Terry. "We've been seeing young people in the shows we've done this year who wouldn't even have been born in our hey-day really getting into the music. I didn't expect that reaction at all. And we don't want to appear to be getting back together again just for the money.
"I have been writing constantly for the last number of years, so has Shane, Philip and probably Jem too, so we'll see. What's important to us at the moment is that our gigs are of the highest standard.
"We toured fairly relentlessly throughout our careers and it had a detrimental effect on every single one of us - mentally, physically and for our families. We're not going to get back into that - there's no point. We can achieve what we want to achieve without killing ourselves.
"We tended to live on the edge back in those days, but there comes a time in your life when you must look in the mirror and make changes.
"We are lucky, we have an audience that is willing to evolve with us."
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