Review and photos—Gogol Bordello at the Vogue Theatre, Vancouver, Oct 9 2009
– review by Shawn Conner/photos by Jessica Bardosh
Gogol Bordello has earned a reputation as one of the best live acts in the world, and rightly so. Formed in New York’s Lower East Side 10 years ago, and fronted by the remarkable Eugene Hutz, the band has fine-tuned its multi-enthnic influences into a brand, “gypsy punk,” and a show that is as fresh, fun and exciting as anything else on the touring circuit today.
Hutz, known also for appearing in the movie version of the novel Everything is Illuminated, as well as in Madonna’s directorial debut Filth and Wisdom, is a dervish of mustachioed energy, leading the seven-piece band – augmented by two sexy dancers/backup vocalists/percussionists, Pamela Racine and Elizabeth Sun – through five-to-seven minute jams. While the drummer, bassist and guitarist do their respective things, it’s Sergey Ryabtsev’s violin and Yury Lemeshev’s accordion which bring the Eastern European exotica to the sound, along with Hutz’s manic exhortations in Ukrainian, Russian and English. Although it should be noted that Thomas “Tommy T’ Goben’s bass, extra prominent in the mix, sounded especially vital to the songs’ flow.
In the two-hour show, Hutz barely paused to take a breath, though he did introduce one song as being about the destruction of an “historic” gypsy encampment in Turkey. In the party atmosphere Gogol Bordello creates, it’s easy to miss the political content of the band’s songs, if not the political nature of a band celebrating a form of music that is itself barely known in North America. But the Clash is an obvious influence, both in the group’s energy and Hutz’s commitment to his cause.
And a celebration it definitely is. People came to dance, pogo, and wave their arms in the air, and there was plenty of that from the moment the band appeared. There was also stage-diving, crowdsurfing, and a lot of folks who just wanted to get onstage to hug a band member, whisper something in someone’s ear, dance or sing along – one game girl joined Hutz on the microphone for Gogol Bordello crowd favourite “Start Wearing Purple” (no political content there, at least according to this quote by Hutz.)
As much fun as the show was, I did find myself wondering at a few points, such as when the band moved en masse from one corner of the stage to another, whether Gogol Bordello hits the same cues every night. Then again, with nine people onstage, there’s not a lot you can leave to chance.
Anyway, it probably doesn’t matter. Anyone who’s seen Gogol Bordello before is going to sign up again, because it’s a guaranteed good time; and those who haven’t, shouldn’t miss the opportunity.