Gogol Bordello

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author MN date 11/05/18 venue Den Grå Hal, Copenhagen, DEN

Shaking off the cobwebs from a better part of two sabbatical years away from reviewing, I seized the opportunity to return to the game when Rockfreaks.net editor AP requested a writer for tonight’s Gogol Bordello show. The last time I saw these raucous Gypsy punks live was five years ago at a sold out Store Vega Show where Eugene Hutz and his merry crowd succeeded, like many times before, to bring a somewhat Dionysian spirit of frivolity to the Danish capital. Joints were loosened, wine was spilt and the crowd left in ecstasy. I have no reason to believe that Gogol Bordello have changed anything about their tireless stamina on the live stage, and it is therefore with a youthful excitement that I venture out onto Pusher Street in Christiania with the colourful temple-like garlands hanging above, where a quick turn to the left reveals the legendary venue Den Grå Hal. Bursting at the seams with people, there is already a sizeable line entering the venue, and the grass-plain outside is occupied by groups liquoring up on Christiania beers and even some people guzzling slivovitz. The venue itself is a beautiful hangar-like wooden atrium with considerable height to the ceiling. As the crowd waits in anticipation, I receive an update that, despite draconian photo rules, tonight’s photographer Stefan has also made it to the gig! The clock rings in at 21.25 and the lights dim to the glee of the crowd.

All photos courtesy of Stefan Frank thor Straten

Gogol Bordello

The band emerges on the stage without any bombastic intro music — what’s the need for that when the crowd supplies a soundtrack of excitement? As each member enters the stage, the audience gets increasingly more energetic, culminating with the entrance of the ever-so charismatic Eugene Hutz, who is sporting leather attire, and what appears to be a gun-holster with a pair of red roses dangling from the side of his hips. Opening with a selection of hard-hitters such as "Break Into Your Higher Self", it is especially upon the third track, “Wonderlust King”, that the crowd starts to create this bacchanalian frenzy in the front rows. Even a couple of conga-lines start to form in the peripherals of the stage. The deep and assuring presence of Thomas Gobena is always a welcomed sight, as he provides the bass-line pulse through "Not A Crime", a raunchy rock-n-roll track that harnesses the best of Gogol Bordello’s unshackled madness. As a seasoned performer in Gogol Bordello, Russian fiddler Sergey Ryabtsev still remains as energetic as ever, providing a seamless performance in tracks such as "My Companjera". Despite turning 60 this year, there seems to be no signs of withering "wonderlust" in this beret-wielding champion.

Gogol Bordello also comprises two other vocalists. One is the frenetic Pedro Erazo-Segovia, who uses his hispanic verses to add more flavours into the melting pot. As an additional choreographer, percussionist-provider of high-pitch vocals, Ashley Tobias really shines in her performance as well. Just passing the halfway mark of the show, Gogol Bordello arguably drop their ace in the form of "Start Wearing Purple”, a song that really needs no introduction. This song arouses an absolute frenzy in sing-a-longs and complimentary hop-a-longs, and I start to wonder whether the show is reaching its peak at a premature moment. It comes to no surprise that as a fan of their first albums, a lot of tonight’s setlist is constructed with promotional value to their latest recordings. I completely respect these decisions, but I can't help but feel a slight loss of excitement at the completion of their biggest hit so early. Yet, as many times before, Gogol Bordello completely overturn all premature expectations with a mammoth finale and subsequent encore. The night’s absolute performative highlight is when a bass drum is dropped on top of the crowd in the pit, and Eugene Hutz boards the percussion vessel whilst saluting his ecstatic fans in song and scream. An almost two-hour-long set further cements Gogol Bordello at the absolute elite of live performers. Had it not been for occasional static in the overall soundscape, where especially the vocals suffer in the initial part of the set, this gig would have merited an even higher score. As my dear concert companion, André, mentions, “Punk is not dead, it has just changed.” I can nod in agreement to the fact that there are not many bands that possess such a punk-rock attitude. It is truly a spectacle to watch this band live and I urge anyone to join the festivity, should the opportunity arise again. It’s Pura Vida.


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