fri 09/12/2022

Gogol Bordello, The Dome, Brighton | reviews, news & interviews

Gogol Bordello, The Dome, Brighton

Gogol Bordello, The Dome, Brighton

An invigorating whirlwind of manic energy but where is it going?

Gogol Bordello: Drumming up a feisty folk-punk storm

As New York gypsy punk live sensation Gogol Bordello tear into another Balkan rebel hoedown in front of a capacity Brighton crowd I'm reminded of an old Stones lyric, Jagger and Richards's 1971 classic "Dead Flowers": "When you're sitting there in your silk upholstered chair/ Talking to some rich folks that you know/ Well, I hope you won't see me in my ragged company/ You know I could never be alone". Gogol Bordello epitomise the rock'n'roll "ragged company", the scruffy outsiders.

They revel in it. Extravagantly moustachioed frontman Eugene Hutz arrives on stage in a Homburg hat and shirt but very quickly divests himself of these. Naked from the waist up, he's so thin his ribs rack noticeably out of his sides. He swigs a bottle of red wine, spilling it liberally over the stage and anyone nearby as he assaults the microphone in an unleavened Ukrainian accent that would be preposterous if it wasn't so passionate. There's no time for postmodern irony here. This is a gang - mohicans, kilts and a zesty fiddler in a beret with long white hair. Gogol Bordello tour endlessly and have honed their set into a lethal crowd-pleasing machine. They also make damned sure their every stylistic tic sticks two fingers up to the "silk upholstered chair" brigade.

2010 should have been Gogol Bordello's year. In April they released Trans-Continental Hustle, their fifth and best album. Produced by Rick Rubin, it seemed destined to take them to another level. Unlike previous outings, it nailed their raucous live energy to a set of memorable songs, coming on like a Balkan beat version of The Clash. Unfortunately it didn't cross over - a shame because I suspect their creativity would benefit from an injection of casual pop fans, the sort who wait for one hit song rather than devotedly putting up with whatever the band chose to play.

Hutz is a cracking frontman, a scrawny but dynamic figure who gives it everything

The show starts when the eight-piece arrive on a darkened stage - against a Spanish anarchist-style backdrop that reads "Familia Indestructible" - and lay down the rough'n'ready reggae groove of "Tribal Connection". Hutz now lives in Brazil and has amalgamated Latin sounds into his trademark gypsy-punk style, with young Ecuadorian MC Pedro Erazo fronting the band alongside him. Songs such as "Immigraniada", "My Companjero" and "Last One Goes the Hope" effectively balance outsider fist-waving with red-blooded singalong tunes, the accordion adding to the overall romantic effect. Sometimes there's a touch of The Pogues about it but Hutz's use of English is no match for Shane McGowan's.

Nonetheless, he's a cracking frontman, a scrawny but dynamic figure who gives it everything. By the time a samba version of the song "American Wedding" arrives he has the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. Gogol's signature tune, "Start Wearing Purple" - marinated in Kletzmer vibes tonight - garners an apoplectic crowd response. After which the encore starts slowly with the cosmic marching song "When Universes Collide" but within five minutes Gogol Bordello have revved into a hoedown that's truly frenzied. It's brilliantly energetic, everything anyone could ask of them. Nevertheless, something needs to change if this fantastic live band are ever going to take things up a notch and achieve the success they deserve.

Watch the video for "Immigraniada":

Gogol Bordello tour endlessly and have honed their set into a lethal crowd-pleasing machine

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