Gogol Bordello at The Academy, Dublin, 16th December 2014
“If we are not here to do what you and I want to do, and go forever crazy with it, why the hell are we even here?” The opening line to the closing song of Gogol Bordello’s set is almost the band’s manifesto. Certainly, it’s a fitting description of their outlook when putting on a show – and fitting that the song, Ultimate, is the one to end it. It may sound a little more ragged than all that has come before, but the Academy is full of tired bones, both on stage and in the crowd.
That is the result of the onslaught of energy that has coursed through the venue from the outset. Eugene Hütz, the Ukrainian-born lead singer and soul of the band, may look like the lord of all Hipsterdom – he prowls the stage, skinny, moustachioed and long-haired, dressed in clothes that have seen better decades – but he is a punk at heart. A Gypsy Punk, as he says himself.
And the crowd flow in behind him at all points. A harmless, hipster rabble, all dreadlocked, tattooed, bearded (there are even a couple of people dressed as pirates), one could be forgiven for thinking on first look, that many are here just to be seen. Not so. They, everyone really, buy into the Bordello.
Even at a time when it’s getting tougher for support bands, Mariachi El Bronx, a mariachi band from the Bronx if you’ll believe it, get a great reception from an attentive crowd. But their exercise in crowd warming is just that and fever only hits its pitch when the lights dip for the main course.
We Rise Again kicks off all heavy bass and angry guitar, before Hütz and Sergey Ryabtsev, and his violin, emerge to give the night its first taste of that distinctive GB sound. Immediately, fists are thrown into the air and bodies bounce to the beat.
From here it never lets up. Through Dig Deep Enough, My Companjera and Other Side of the Rainbow, masses of flesh heave from one side of the venue to the other, carried on a wave of peace, tolerance and just having a good time. If it’s not Hütz leading the cheer, it’s Scotland’s Elizabeth Sun, Ecuador’s Pedro Erazo or Belarus’s Pasha Newmer, each with unique contribution to this circus full of accordions, violins and guitars.
Then the hits arrive. Immigraniada nearly starts an all out riot (in the friendliest way possible) before the cult Start Wearing Purple induces a mass sing along about almost nothing at all. Break the Spell and Wonderlust King again bring the show back to the point of sweaty elation before the band take their leave of the stage.
While he has a very tight band around him (despite its incredible disparate nature), Hütz doesn’t have a great singing voice – the only compliment you can really pay it is to say it’s distinctive – but his lyrics, his ear for a tune and his enthusiasm resonate. Especially live. Perhaps it no surprise that something in the Irish mentality resonates with Gogol Bordello’s tales of emigration, fighting intolerance and the love a good time.
Indeed, when Hütz tries to silence the crowd down for a quiet part of Alcohol during the encore he can’t. The raucousness he has built up won’t quell so easily and howls spring from various parts of the crowd just as others settle. They are (pertinently alcohol-fuelled) howls of love though, and Hütz drops his guitar and lifts his hands to his face; in equal parts frustration, humility and exhaustion.
Indeed, they are just doing what they want, and forever going crazy with it. Who would deny them that?