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Gogol Bordello At The Henry Fonda Theater, Wednesday October 9th 2013

Eugene Hütz

 

I have seen Gogol Bordello a few times in concert now, and if this first-time-awe-effect cannot be the same the third time, their high energy, their infectious melodies and Eugene Hutz’ s grand charisma have never ceased to bring me joy and the biggest shot of adrenaline! Last night, their third night at the Henry Fonda, was no exception,… as usual, it was a circus-party kind of show, with Eugene as the leader of this mad (but well-organized) house.

The security guards in front of me were putting latex gloves on a few minutes before the band took the stage, and as I was looking at one of them with probably a question mark across my face, he said it was ‘to catch people.’ Oh, that’s how they do it now? With surgeon gloves? But yes, they had a lot of people to catch during these 2 hours (or even more, I lost track of time) of non-stop jumping, bouncing, surfing, as you would expect at any punk show.

Eugene Hutz arrived on stage wearing a sort of gypsy-pirate dream outfit, with a flag hanging from his belt, but removed layer by layer little by little, playing most of the show naked torso as he is used to. He is a restless performer and the way he carries his guitar dangling in his back as if he was on the road for some endless trip, transforms him into a heroic figure riding the wave, in front of the yellow curtain representing their symbolic sling with the word revolution written backward.

The music, all based on acoustic guitar, bass, Romanian violin, gypsy accordion, Latin rhythms, with the occasional cymbals, was always reserving a large place for traditional instruments. I hadn’t fully realized this before, but the apparent chaos that constantly reigns on stage, is actually a well-oiled machine, Eugene and his musicians, including female dancer/cymbal and drum performer Elizabeth Sun, were moving to the front of the stage in regular waves, stopping in their impulse at the edge, all-arms-and legs-apart, as if they were posing for a new Gericault oil painting or the next poster for some heroic moment of class struggle. It was so colorful and harmonious you would want to get their picture each time, under the impression they have worked on their choreography as much as on the music. But at the same time, it was always meaningful if you’d manage to pay attention to Hutz’s clever and inspirational lyrics, breaking frontiers and the spell, asking people to find freedom in themselves … and it’s not a coincidence if the DJ played ‘Songs of freedom’ (the Cash-Strummer version) just after the show.

The set was heavy on ‘Pura Vida Conspiracy’ and ‘Trans-Continental Hustle’ of course, their two last albums, but they dug deep into one of my favorite of theirs, ‘Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike’. Their music has become more hybrid as Eugene migrated from Ukraine to Europe to the US and finally to Brazil, and lots of these new songs are impregnated by South America rhythms, a sort of ‘Russian rumba’ as Eugene described it himself last night. It was a normal evolution, and the music has become more complex without losing anything from its wonderful energy, but I have kept a soft spot for the early pure gypsy-punk songs and they offered lots of them on Wednesday night… anyway difficult to imagine a Gogol Bordello concert without ‘Start Wearing Purple,’ and Eugene wandering on stage with his wine bottle, and exploding the purple liquor on the front rows.

They hardly stopped between the songs, delivering a tireless performance, only taking a break before the encore but returning for 6 more songs? Unstoppable, unbreakable, they are all this and more and their fans know it very well, they were stomping and chanting ‘ole ole ole’ as if they were in a soccer stadium to call them back on stage. ‘Tired?’ asked Eugene to someone in the front row, ‘it’s your third night?’ he continued, ‘It’s my thirtieth fucking night!’ he added making fun of his exhausted fans who had attended the three consecutive LA shows. But Eugene wasn’t showing any signs of fatigue for the fans’ greatest joy, and once again I was just in front of a woman who was screaming all the lyrics of all the songs in my right ear! He introduced the tune ‘Malandrino’ as a nickname he got while traveling in South America, adding that it meant ‘screwball’! a name fitting this ‘singing heart’ like a glove. And the rest was just sing-alongs and fists in the air from the rowdy crowd eager to make one with the beautiful choreography on stage. I realized that there was not a bad Gogol Bordello song, they were all coming alive with the same vibrant energy, even when they started quietly like ‘When Universes Collide’ or the wonderful ‘Alcohol’.

I was about to leave the place after the show when a guy asked me if I wanted to go to the after-party, I may have said no first not understanding what he was talking about, then,…. What? Did I ask, what is this? ‘It’s an after-party, you hang out and drink with Eugene and the rest of the band!’ It was past midnight, Gogol Bordello’s shows are always so long, but I could not pass such an occasion! I stayed in the Fonda with some other people – I still don’t know how this guy had an extra pass – and met Eugene like a few other fans. Lots of girls (and guys) wanted to get pictures with him, I hesitated for a while, am I still the groupie-type after all? Probably, I made him sign the setlist that I had ferociously taken from the stage and asked him for a picture. He was totally cool of course and very friendly with girls, or rather some girls were very friendly with him and he wasn’t complaining,…. Can I say I love his accent, the way he pronounced my name and knew exactly how to spell it! He left backstage with his beautiful girlfriend, sorry girls!! But he had already given so much. This was so unexpected, a friend of the guy who had given me the pass said it was his first Gogol Bordello concert and a totally unbelievable experience. I totally see why, there is such fervor during a Gogol Bordello gig, it transforms everyone gypsy for a night and starts a fire that burns long after the lights are on.

Setlist

Intro
We Rise Again
Not a Crime
Wonderlust King
Dig Deep Enough
My Companjera
The Other Side of Rainbow
Trans-Continental Hustle
Immigraniada (We Comin’ Rougher)
Break the Spell
When Universes Collide
My Gypsy Auto Pilot
Pala Tute
Malandrino
Start Wearing Purple
Sally
Encore:
Lost Innocent World
It Is the Way You Name Your Ship
Alcohol
I Just Realized
Mishto!
Undestructable



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