Gogol Bordello October 12, Boulevard Pool
As I waited to pick up my Gogol Bordello tickets at the Cosmopolitan Saturday night, the concierge informed me that “he” would be going on late. I assumed by “he,” he meant highly recognizable, heavily mustachioed Eugene Hütz. But while the frontman and sometime-actor is certainly Gogol’s best-known member, the rest of the band can hardly be discounted, as they proved during the evening’s 90 nonstop minutes of gypsy-punk revelry at the Boulevard Pool. From spitfire vocalist/MC Pedro Erazo to stage-prowling multi-instrumentalist Elizabeth Sun to daunting violinist Sergey Ryabtsev, any of the eight members could be considered the “lead” based on stage presence alone.
The set kicked off with an explosive rendition of “We Rise Again,” the opener of this year’s Pura Vida Conspiracy, with members sprinting onstage one by one until Hütz finally emerged, swigging from a bottle of wine, to take his place at the central mic. The brass-laced call-to-arms number inspired not one but two moshpits, and men and women, teens and parents continued thrashing about for the duration of the gig.
The band’s high-octane blend of punk, Latin rock, Romani folk and hip-hop can be overwhelming on record but raises the bar as a live show. Instruments included but were not limited to: ukulele, cymbals, accordion, congas, a marching bass drum, assorted brass and fiddle. In less-adept hands, such an amalgamation might sound terrible; Gogol Bordello proved that for all the theatrical pomp, its musicians are fundamentally talented, making tempo-hopping numbers like “Immigraniada” as impressive as they were fun.
As Boulevard Pool shows tend to, the gig suffered from sound issues (especially muffled vocals) and a lack of intimacy. Gogol’s profile might be Cosmopolitan-worthy, but its sneering us-vs.-them zeal will always be better suited for a venue where the band can mosh freely among its people. Double Down, anyone?