Concert Review: Gogol Bordello

This was not a show for the fainthearted, and no one there – on the stage or in the crowd – was asking or giving any quarter.

There were no surprises in Gogol Bordello’s no-holds-barred first gig – of three this week – at the Barby Club in Tel Aviv on Monday evening, and absolutely no complaints either.
The place was packed to the rafters, which did not prevent the mostly twenty-something audience from jumping, grooving and swaying with great athleticism and unbridled fervor. This was not a show for the fainthearted, and no one there – on the stage or in the crowd – was asking or giving any quarter.
The gypsy punk outfit’s frontman, Ukraine-born singer-guitarist Eugene Hütz, kept the raucous vocals coming thick and fast, strumming furiously on his acoustic guitar and taking every opportunity to arch his lean torso over the edge of the stage, above heads of the audience.
The roar as the band hit the stage was deafening for what was a long-awaited return for the eight-piece New York-based troupe after a triumphant concert at the same venue 18 months ago.
Gogol Bordello is always as much a feast for the eyes as for the ears, and all the members of the band kept their individual and collective energy levels sky high.
Old favorites like “Start Wearing Purple” had everyone jumping with blissful abandon as did new material, such as “Break the Spell” off the band’s latest CD Trans-Continental Hustle. For the latter, all the members of the audience raised their left arm and mirrored Hütz’s frenetic gesticulations.
While Hütz is the life and soul of the group, and the primary vocalist – other vocal efforts by Spanish MC-percussionist Pedro Erazo and Scottish-Chinese dancer-singer Elizabeth Sun did not add much to the mix – there were plenty of crowd-enthusing exploits by other members of the band, including Erazo, Sun and particularly grey-bearded violinist-vocalist Sergey Ryabtsev. Accordionist Yuri Lemeshev cut a curious and seemingly incongruent figure who, with his granddad specs and Chairman Mao cap, seemed better suited to entertaining kibbutzniks of old sitting around a kumsitz bonfire.
Looks notwithstanding, he reeled off some pretty smooth licks on his squeezebox.
Tonight’s show is the last of the band’s three gigs here on this tour. If you’re looking for nonstop action and volume levels patently designed to keep the rest of Tel Aviv awake, Barby is the place to be.