Review and photos – Gogol Bordello at the Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, Dec. 28 2012
– review by Joy dela Cruz/photos by Christine Redmond
If there’s anything that reality TV has recently taught people, it’s that gypsies know how to party. Sure, it may seem like an over-generalized statement, with the inexplicable popularity of scandalous shows like My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding. But with a band like Gogol Bordello, who played their first of two sold-out shows Friday, Dec. 28 at the Commodore Ballroom, that sentiment is a mere understatement.
The New York-based gypsy punk super group has built itself an ardent fanbase, all through persistent touring in Europe and the Americas, multiple festival appearances, and the cult success of their five albums, including their most recent release, the 2010 Rick Rubin-produced Trans-Continental Hustle. Led by Ukraine-born musician, actor and raconteur Eugene HĂĽtz, Gogol Bordello has popularized, if not perfected, this music genre, thus paving the way for other essential acts like DeVotchKa and Balkan Beat Box.
Concertgoers were greeted as they entered the venue with a DJ set from Vancouver’s Jason Sulyma, also known as My!Gay!Husband. The local producer and co-founder of the local annual Olio Festival played a veritable party mix of random world music and current hits from Santigold, M.I.A., and LCD Soundsystem. The crowd grew increasingly restless, however, as the set went on, with shouts of “hey ho, let’s go!” reverberating from an eclectic group composed of bearded hipsters, punks, goths, and gypsies ready to get the party started.
Soon enough, Gogol Bordello entered the stage, starting with “Ultimate”, the opening song from their 2007 album Super Taranta!. HĂĽtz, along with his party co-consipirators–violinist Sergey Ryabtsev, accordionist Yuri Lemeshev, percussionists and backing vocalists/MCs Pedro Erazo and Elizabeth Sun, bassist Thomas Gobena, guitarist Michael Ward and drummer Oliver Charles–excited the crowd with a playlist that one couldn’t help but be compelled to dance to.
The band riled up the audience with hard-hitting songs like “Not A Crime”, “Wonderlust King” and “Immigraniada (We Comin’ Rougher)”. They tried to slow things down with a melodic single from Trans-Continental Hustle, “When Universes Collide”, starting with just the accordion and guitar and then ending with a crescendo of the entire band wildly playing their instruments.
The show reached a fever pitch with “Break The Spell”, a politically-charged number about inclusion and tolerance, specifically about Roma gypsies like HĂĽtz. “Imagine that you’re two weeks old, when you had the joy of being, where there’s no segregation,” said the charismatic lead singer, clumsily clutching a bottle of red wine and his acoustic guitar as he tried to inspire the crowd.
The night’s end was marked by the rousing “Start Wearing Purple”, from their third album Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike, along with the repeated chants of “break the spell!” coming from the fervent audience. The band then treated their fans with a merry five-song encore, after which HĂĽtz literally invited everyone to an impromptu after-party. These gypsies sure know how to party, and Gogol Bordello are definitely not quite ready to end their worldwide traveling punk cabaret any time soon.