The Pogues 'on form' for Bluesfest

The Pogues head to Australia for the first time in 23 years at Bluesfest 2012.
The Pogues head to Australia for the first time in 23 years at Bluesfest 2012. Contributed

THE Crossroads stage is set for a raucous night on Sunday when Irish punk rock veterans The Pogues play in Australia for the first time in 20 years.

That's assuming notoriously unpredictable front man Shane MacGowan makes it on stage of course.

But Bluesfest punters rest assured, he's nearly always "on form" these days according to Pogues guitarist Phillip Chevron.

"Shane is a strong-willed person who lives the way he does... it's not something I've ever passed judgement on," Chevron said.

"When Shane is on form, which he is most of the time these days, it's a real pleasure to play with him. You're on the same stage as a master.

"He has such an energy and ability that doesn't go away."

The band, which parted ways with MacGowan in 1991 and eventually called it quits in 1996, reformed in 2001 for a three-week British tour.

They have been playing on and off ever since.

"We never any intention of going beyond that," Chevron said.

"That three-week tours has accumulated into a 10-year reunion.

"But there's no form or shape or advanced planning involved. Generally speaking, we respond to the offers that come in at the time and if they're feasible, and we can make it work, then we try to do them."

The band will never again be a full-time job for its members, who have expressed no interest in recording new material.

"We don't actually tour in sense that we go from one tour to another," Chevron said.

"We just parcelled out where we do two to three weeks at a time. Our lives are so rudely interrupted to go do a Pogues tour (laughs).

"The Pogues at this stage is just a wonderful thing to do. It would be dreadful if we had to do it all the time."

Chevron points out the band's reunion has already lasted longer than the band did before its first break up.

"The fact that The Pogues have survived at all is something," he said.

"It's not a miracle, but it's something to be celebrated. We're all aware of that.

"We're just doing laps of honour."

The Pogues last toured Australia in 1992, without MacGowan.

"We have actively sought to go to Australia in the past few years, and this is the first time all the stars have been in alignment as it were."

Chevron's most distinct memory from the trip was the change in seasons.

"The first thing everybody says to you when you're playing a tour of Australia in January is how the climate contrast is huge," he said.

"It's the first thing that pale-skinned English and Irish boys notice.

"Coming from depressing cold, miserable grey snowy Britain or Ireland to Australia in peak summer months is a bit of a culture shock but it's a nice one."

Even if Celtic punk is not your cup of tea, it's hard to resist the rustic charm of I Love You Till The End, Dirty Old Town and the Pogues Christmas classic Fairytale of New York.

"There's something inexplicably moving seeing Shane, at the age of 54, singing that song now," Chevron said.

"You don't think when you're 30 that this will have a whole new subtext when I'm 54.

"That's the last thing on your mind, but it makes it all the more interesting and worthwhile.

"A lot of the songs have that sort of second life quality to them. Whatever they meant in 1988, they mean something extra in that you're still there to perform them."

The Byron Bluesfest plays the Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm through Monday.

The Pogues play the Crossroads stage on Sunday April 8 at 10.30pm.

Topics:  bluesfest music festival

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