gogol_bordello_2013_pr_l– ACADEMY, MANCHESTER –

When Pura Vida Conspiracy was released this summer, I didn’t agree with a lot of the blogosphere hype that surrounded it. Sure, the New York gypsy punk’s sixth album had maybe a handful of memorable hits, but it fell short of comparable in positive light to the likes of their previous records Super Taranta and Trans-Continental Hustle. Despite this, after nearly two decades of spit-firing a cabaret of Eastern European musical cannons at the world, I wasn’t about to miss another chance to catch Gogol Bordello live.

Manchester Academy is spilling with hyperactive gypsy punk lovers tonight, each and every one of them eager to catch the orchestrated chaos that is about to take the stage, and also clarifying to me that I’m not the only Gogol fan in the UK. The band have gained an absolutely massive following at home in North America, so it’s nothing but heartwarming to see that trend has followed suit across waters.

Hardcore fans have clustered the pit pre-show with lit cigarettes and overflowing pints, revving to get the flow of tonight going in a slew of dance-happy, fiddle-heavy rhythms. Gogol Bordello heavily feed off of their summer release tonight, kicking it off with the infectious ‘We Rise Again’ as each of the eight members burst into our view. Eugene Hutz hangs a Romani flag from his belt loop while he introduces himself to us with a witchy smile and that undeniable hyperkinetic Ukrainian spirit. From the get go, their energy transfers itself onto the wide-eyed crowd below the stage. Well-known TV advert favourite ‘Wonderlust King’ drifts in fourth during the set as the audience jump up and down to Sergey Ryabtsev on the fiddle and really, you can’t help but smile when he plays, especially since tonight he is sporting a shirt with ‘The Profession of Russian Rock & Roll’ written on it. Noticeably, accordion player and oldest member of the band Yuri Lemeshev has been replaced by young-spirited Pasha Newmer whose energy fits the entire flare of Gogol Bordello perfectly as he sings along to the dancehall swing.

The band’s set tonight features a cross-section of songs from their fifteen year career, writing outlandish parade punk hits mixed up with versions of traditional Eastern European folk songs. Hutz attacks the crowd with his guitar slung around his back, coming off witty and fresh, to no surprise at all. The crowd is so fully engaged in this gig – a circle pit forming at the front with scattered onlookers dancing at the far back of the venue in their own little wacky backyard hokey-pokey dance off.

‘Pala Tute’ from 2010’s Trans-Continental Hustle makes everyone aware that standing at the front of the stage isn’t for the half-assed participant – you’re either in or you’re out. Loud and raw, each member of this cosmopolitan band contributes their home country’s traditional musical stylings with such ease. Hutz is incendiary on stage, grabbing a bottle of red wine and splashing it onto the crowd who I am sure don’t mind – they’re already full of pre-drinks and warm ciders from Manchester’s infamous Christmas Markets.

Urging us to join along with claps and fist pumps, ‘Break The Spell’ contributes to the global conversation with clashing cymbals as the band’s vocalists hop around on stage. Hutz’s lyrics go without questioning – his cross-cultural observations have given the band such immense notoriety. Often ensued in some kind of hilarity, you can’t help but feel like you’re at home when Gogol Bordello come to town as though we’re welcoming them with a sloppy kiss like our crazy out-of-town Eastern European family. The musical dexterity of this band is limitless as each member switches instruments and hugs each other as they sing into the crowd, making eye contact with each and every kid in the front row.

Although tonight’s show flirts with popular GB songs like ‘Start Wearing Purple and ‘Mishto!’, the band are sure to give attention to the underdog tracks from album’s previous. Hutz fronts the stage alone during his acoustic love-letter to the drink during ‘Alcohol’ as he serenades us off into another cold Northern night in England.  All in all, having been my fourth time to witness the insanity that is a Gogol Bordello show, they’ve impressed with theatrics held in high regard. I’m sure they’ll take next summer’s festivals by storm.

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Brit Jean

One time time Gigs Editor over here at Silent Radio HQ. I've been music blogging and writing in Manchester for the past few years after graduating with a Literature degree back home in Canada. Never have I experienced a city quite like Manchester - so many great gigs and so little time! In 2014 I started an Independent Record label, Blak Hand Records with my best mate, and we aim to put out some of our favourite garage rock and psychedelic artists from both Liverpool and Manchester.