The Space at Westbury
March 20, 2019
Gogol Bordello is not your average, run-of-the-mill, typical band. The band, whose music is an amalgamation of many genres—gypsy music infused with Eastern European jazz, klezmer, Latin rhythms, worldbeat, folk, funk, R&B, disco, soul, rock, punk and pop--was formed in 1999 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and is known for theatrical stage shows and almost unending tours. The music is loud and joyous. The band members act as though they learned their trade at the Theatre of the Absurd. But it is Gogol Bordello's performance, as a whole, that gets its devoted audience bopping, dancing and singing along.
As one might expect, some call Gogol Bordello a collective of mad-men. The band members can and will do just about anything to enhance the group’s performance. A Gogol Bordello show is a happening. It is as much a spectacle as it is about music. This seven-payer strong group is comprised of world-class musicians. They are also showmen and women of the highest order. At any given show at virtually anytime, frontman, Eugene Hütz is likely to pop open a bottle of wine, throw bouquets of flowers to audience members via a huge slingshot, twist himself around the legs and/or torso of another band member while playing the accordion, or take it upon himself to lead and teach a course in samba dancing. In a previous life, Hütz may very well have been the master of ceremonies at a traveling circus. It is almost as if he is now reliving that life under a modern big-top as the ringmaster of a circus of very musical gypsies.
Currently comprised of Hütz on lead vocals, acoustic guitar and percussion; announcer and percussionist Pedro Erazo-Segovia; Sergey Ryabtsev on violin and backing vocals; Ashley Tobias (TOBI) on percussion and backing vocals; Thomas “Tommy T” Gobena on bass; Alfredo Ortiz on drums and Boris Pelekh on guitar, the band gave it's all on a cool Wednesday night at Westbury, NY's The Space. Opening with an abbreviated number of performers on a fantastic version of “We Did It All,” the full band would not all be on stage until the second tune, “Break Into Your Higher Self.” At that point the entire group was in character and for the rest of the evening delivered a high-energy musical and performance art show.
The evening's performance was highlighted by powerful versions of: “Immigraniada (We Comin' Rougher)” from the 2010 American Recordings CD Trans-Continental Hustle, which featured the audience members chanting along with Hütz; “I Would Never Wanna Be Young Again” from Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike (Side One Dummy Records, 2005); “60 Revolutions; “Start Wearing Purple;” “Through The Roof ‘n’ Underground;” “Saboteur Blues” from Seekers and Finders (Cooking Vinyl, 2017); “My Companjera” and “Alcohol.
The show, for those who had never seen the band, was definitely a revelation. For the faithful, it was business as usual. Either way, crowd members were mesmerized and taken by the energy of the foot-stomping set. They sweated, danced and lost themselves in the swirling rhythms as Hütz, sang, danced, strummed his guitar, drank from his wine bottle, cajoled and interacted with them. As the evening progressed, he made it his business to ensure that each and every band member was given the opportunity to showcase his or her chops.
At the end of the performance, the band members came to the center of the stage, joined hands and bowed--much like the cast of a Broadway production. As the crowd ambled out into the lobby, many stopped by the band's merchandise table where it became apparent that the Gogol Bordello machine was also comprised of marketing geniuses. Fans were seen purchasing CDs (both recently released and those released early in the band's career), vinyl versions of these albums, posters, caps and any number of different T-shirts.
A Gogol Bordello performance is a happening. It is a must-see.
Photo Credit : Christine Connallon