Posted by Justin Hoyt
As the lights dimmed over the anxious crowd at The Mayan theater in downtown Los Angeles on Monday night, many who knew what I was about to find out roared their welcome for what would turn out to be one of the most engaging live bands I have ever witnessed. Fronted by the enigmatic, Ukrainian-born Eugene Hütz, Gogol Bordello seized the all-ages crowd's attention and energy from the opening bell. Following a brief intro with "Ultimate" the audience was coaxed into mayhem and seemed to be thrilled and captivated by the gypsy punk outfit which has proved as somewhat of a renaissance for Roma music. The group formed around 2000 in New York but is comprised of a global conglomerate of artists. With a total of eight people on stage constantly altering their locations in an almost choreographed fashion, Gogol Bordello's on stage energy was transfered and received by the dedicated and tireless audience. Percussionist and mc Pedro Erazo was anywhere from all the way in back on the congas to seemingly in the crowd igniting one of the signature chants of the night (Hey! Hey! Hey!). With Hütz's thick accent and the amount of languages seemingly being sung throughout Gogol Bordello's music, the chants of "Hey!" became universal to the audience allowing those who either didn't know or understand most of the lyrics to still pound their fist and be a part of the madness.
Violinist Sergey Ryabtsev carved through melodies, at times emulating the place and sounds traditionally held by guitar solos in most punk. Yuri Lemeshev's accordion extended the group's sound into a certain sense of melancholy profoundness occasionally, such as the soul-striking "When Universes Collide", but just as quickly was the catalyst for the madness which swept over the crowd like the waves of shores mere miles from The Mayan. Backup vocalist Elizabeth Sun paraded across the stage interacting at some point or another with every band member as well as perching herself upon the stacks of speakers in order to engage the crowd in yet another anthem inducing chant.
Ending with the hit "Start Wearing Purple" (an ode to spilling red wine) which lead into the reprise of "Break the Spell", before returning with a 20-25 minute encore including "Sun is on my Side" and "Baro Foro", the entire band performed like a well oiled rig and proved to the Los Angeles crowd why they are considered among the elite live performers in the industry. Unfortunately for those in the Northwest looking to partake in the Gogol Bordello experience patience or travel might be required, the group rarely gets any closer than San Francisco. The ever-touring group have not been to ether Seattle or Portland since 2008.
Below is a clip of "Ultimate". The camera is a bit shaky but gives a good feel of the Gogol Bordello experience.