02 Academy, Glasgow
15th December 2013
Gogol Bordello are one of those bands who tour and tour and tour and have built up a following the old fashioned way. An eight piece band of half a dozen nationalities they spend every summer playing festivals all over the world and have such a diverse and hard to pigeonhole sound that they are as welcome at Download as they are at Glastonbury.
This Glasgow show is the last one of a lengthy European tour and despite being regular visitors here there is a sense of expectation in the busy Academy as show time nears.
The band bounced onto the stage with 'We Rise Again' from the latest album 'Pure Vida Conspiracy' which is basically a traditional guitar based rock tune and the crowd roared a welcome but weren't bouncing yet. However the band segued straight into the guitar/fiddle riff of crowd favourite 'Not A Crime' and the place just exploded.
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I should explain that a GB gig is not a normal show with the first few rows jumping around and everyone else standing watching. Their mostly student audience come to dance and the whole floor of the venue in front of the stage became a bouncing, sweating, singing mass of humanity in the space of a few seconds.
Following next was the classic singalong punk vibe of 'Wanderlust King' and the night was really already theirs, no one in the Academy could resist!
Singer and band leader Eugene Hutz is a charismatic frontman, easily able to hold the crowd's attention during solo acoustic singalongs like 'Alcohol' while other times seeming barely on the edge of reason waving a wine bottle around wildly so it spills everywhere and cavorting around the stage like a demented Ukrainian pop star.
Huge energy is what this band is all about and he gives it off in spades for the whole near two hour show. The rest of the band keep pace with him, the traditional rock guys on bass, drums and guitar staying more in the background while the the others race around the stage. If singers and percussionists Pedro Erazo and Elizabeth Sun aren't posing and waving at the crowd on top of the monitors they're dancing or racing towards one side of the stage or another.
Part of what gives Gogol Bordello's music its' unique flavour is that on top of all that rock and punk vibe and energy they mix in the traditional sounds of fiddle and accordion creating a wild sound which seems to draw people in wherever they play. Whether it's the edgy, punky vibe of 'Immagraniada' or the latin twist of 'Pala Tute' the crowd react and bounce around like there's no tomorrow.
New boy on the accordion tonight having joined the band this year was Pasha Newmer and he seemed to fit in to the maelstrom easily enough. Joint star of the show with Eugene in the crowds' eyes however was fiddle player Sergey Ryabtsev who's smiling bonhomie and wicked playing are a huge part of the show.
Allowed to do some singing during their best known song 'Start Wearing Purple' the crowd roared and roared their appreciation and he milked it like the old pro he is! I don't often write that the fiddle player got the biggest cheer of the night in a review but here I have to!
Ninety minutes just wasn't enough for the band or the audience so after a short break a five song encore followed including a cover of The Stranglers' 'Nice And Sleazy' and then some final bouncing, sweating and singing was done to favourites 'Mishto' and 'Ultimate' before the band took a long welcome bow in front of an adoring audience.
I have no idea how these musicians can keep up this level of energy every night of a tour and still sound tight but they are just an infectious, joyous breath of sweaty, happy air in the live music scene. Do yourself a favour and go and see them sometime, it's like a celebration of being alive and you'll remember what got you excited about music in the first place!
Glasgow seems to have been too busy enjoying itself to put any good videos up of the show. Here's one of 'Mishto' from Norwich earlier on the tour though. If they can get Norwich moving like this think what Glasgow was like!
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