From the campus of Michigan State University

Gogol Bordello Concert Review - April 21st at the Royal Oak Music Theatre

Jimmy Malkin opened up the concert with a powerful performance by dancing much like Thom Yorke and dressing much like Jack White. However, the crowd was obviously Gogol loyalists and only displayed meager enthusiasm before the second act Devotchka revved up the crowd to a slow hopping jaunt as they swayed to the haunting howls and chanting vocals of Nick Urata who seemed to make the audience inhale and exhale on command as he would lean back and forth on the microphone. The group combines a mixture of Eastern European traditional folk songs with the theremin, guitar, bouzouki, piano, trumpet, violin, bass and percussion to produce a sound that is all unique and still projects the attitude that is so uniquely gypsy punk. The highlight of Devotchka's act came from two lovely young ladies who did scarf acrobatics during one of the band's longer instrumental pieces. I had a chance to meet these young women after the concert who say they have always looked forward to working with such high energy acts after graduating from Boulder Circus School (I had inquired where I could learn how to do that.)

Finally, Devotchka wrapped up and the crowd became restless with the long sound check. Ironically enough, the song “Rebels Of A Sacred Heart” came over the airplay as the sound check continued and everyone in the crowd was momentarily subdued as they all grasped arms and belted out the lyrics together. After 20 minutes of anticipation Gogol Bordello began in full swing, playing hits such as “Wonderlust King," and “Through The Roof Underground.” They also played a few new tracks from their then not yet released album Transcontinental Hustle, that dropped April 27th in the U.S. The album was produced by famed Metallica producer Rick Rubin, who discovered the band through a text he received from Tom Morello claiming the Gogol as “the greatest band in the world.”

The band played with the gritty, hard hitting, no holds bar energy that they are famous for while the crowd swirled violently around them like the waters in a tropical storm with whirlpools of people occasionally crashing into moshpits like giant crests on the high seas — a floor show not for the weak at heart. Gogol was encored twice with the megahit song “Start Wearing Purple” and another new single from Transcontinental Hustle that Eugene (lead vocal, guitar) then ended with a sharing of his Italian white wine with the front line of moshers. After the show I met with a few of the band members that expressed excitement with the upcoming tour as they were just now leaving for an acoustic set in New York.

Eugene was accompanied by a tan-skinned tall woman that was rather eloquently dressed for such a concert — could this be the famous girlfriend Diana, the Romanian samba dancer who has inspired most of the Gogol’s emotional lyrics? I was too bashful to ask. It will be interesting to see the aftermath of Hustle’s release whether Gogol loyalists will continue to see the band in the same light now that they have gained a more mainstream producer like Rick Rubin. Whether they maintain the uncompromised raw energy of Underdog as they progress through stages of higher production is yet to be seen, but I think it is safe to say that they will always have their loyal gypsy punk loyalists to drink their wine. As Eugene Hütz would say “It’s mystical but practical. It’s powerful, man.” (Billboard March 2010 Issue)

Emily Skipton