Gogol Bordello Live at Melkweg

Gogol Bordello put on a show full-on party for their fans in Amsterdam, read my review of the August 2011 show here:

It was Wristcutters: A Love Story that first peaked my interest in Gogol Bordello. The film features a main character- partially based on front man Eugene Hütz- who plays his old band’s tapes (Gogol’s music) throughout his adventures in an afterlife world for successful suicidals. That may be a depressing tagline, but the story is charming and their gypsy folk music gives the film a unique, wanderlust feeling.

Gogol’s performance in Amsterdam this past Monday is certainly what sealed my fate as a fan and follower, though. Nine musicians scattered the stage in the larger of two halls inside Melkweg, one of the city’s premiere music spots. Hütz’s onstage crew brewed fusions of rock, gypsy punk, Mazel Tov and Baltic folk via acoustic and electric guitars, accordion, electric violin, drums, extra bass percussion and vocals by most band members (and an MC too!)

The show began before it began. The visibly sold out venue started clapping hands and stomping energetic feet in unison as if to entice the Gogol Gods to start their already hour late set earlier. And boy, did they deliver. The energy I felt was so immediate as opening track “Tribal Connections” morphed from its melodic sing-a-long chorus into verses reverberating with jumping moshers and back again- bring it in, yes what a glorious introduction to a group of musicians and performers that should advertise themselves as energy creators, boosters and maintainers.

The setlist progressed in tempo and heavier Balkin bass into songs such as “Dub the Frequencies of Love” and the long time favorite “Wanderlust King.” Unparalleled stage presence, a star folk electric violin player, beat boxing interludes and one sexy lady banging a ridiculously oversized marching bass drum- that’s to name a few of the hearty methods Gogol Bordello employs to excite past the point of caring whether you still had a shirt on, you sweat through every follicle of hair or fell head first crowdsurfing in all your glory. A band that can rock out is good- a band that can also chill out is better. The wild violin solo in “When Universes Collide” was well balanced with a gorgeous acoustic trio intro to the ballad “Sun is on my Side.”

Gogol Bordello truly falls under the “world music” genre umbrella. The nine current members (the alumni list to date totals another seven) are from Russia, Ukraine, Israel, Ethiopia, Scotland, Ecuador and America. At one point during set, the vocal spotlight was passed from the first band member to the last as each sang a partial verse- in their respective home languages- of “Girl” by the Beatles. In addition, the collective audience defied the notion that bands have certain stereotypical fans. Older hippy types, checkered tie-wearing, military booted ‘punks’, young indie rockers, entire families matching in Gogol tour t-shirts and ‘everyone in between’; not an ounce of pretentiousness resonated in this fun and refreshingly diverse crowd. Wild.

By the end of the show it smelled of inescapable body odor, but all smiles point to worth it. Energy seemed to radiate as we spread outside afterwards, reason enough to conclude that everybody should experience a Gogol Bordello set at least once- for an unexpected dose of unabashed, untamed fun.

(Originally published on the217.com and readbuzz.com)

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