There is no shortage of rock bands out there that are wild, live. Every day Brooklyn alone seems to produce another garage-rock group with out-of-control, usually alcohol-fueled sets at whatever DIY venue that hasn’t yet been shut down by gentrification. It’s gotten to the point where there needs to be more for there to be a ‘there, there.’ Doing wild right, with a whole lot of substance, is Gogol Bordello, who played two nights at New York’s Terminal 5 (QRO venue review) on Friday & Saturday, January 2nd & 3rd.
The last few years, Gogol have played the Big Apple on New Year’s Eve, but with the holiday falling on hump day this time, they instead chose to play the following weekend, but with two shows. Yet there was still a line out the door early on Friday night (your correspondent was standing behind comedian Jeffrey Ross, who would appear on @Midnight a few weeks later). Openers Man Man (QRO photos) and Ana Tijoux (QRO photos) fit the evening well (Man Man had opened their T5 NYC NYE last year), with Man Man bringing Gogol’s wild multi-instrumentalism, while Tijoux delivered an accessible international feel (even if her rhymes were in Spanish, which she admitted, “I know this is a lot of Spanish for you folks…” to the Anglophone crowd – though it was a way more multicultural crowd than you’d usually find at Terminal 5).
As Gogol Bordello’s last release, Pure Vida Conspiracy (QRO review) was two years ago (sort of – 2013…), the evening was a mix-and-match from all albums – they are currently recording a new record in Washington, D.C., but no new songs were on other just yet (they did cover D.C. punk icons Fugazi, with “Blueprint”). Singer/guitarist Eugene Hütz started the set solo with “Illumination”, which he remarked that post-Katrina New Orleans had adopted as their own (“Not to knock New York…” he quickly added). But with that and other times Hütz played acoustic solo, this would lead into the rest of the many-membered band joining him, and often sing-alongs from the crowd as well.
Despite the solo acoustic beginning, this was not a show that started on a slow boil. Instead, Gogol Bordello were wild from the get-go on songs such as “We Rise Again” and “Not a Crime”. Pretty much every song saw wildness, such as Hütz going from wearing his mikestand to not wearing a shirt on “Last One Goes the Hope”, bassist Thomas ‘Tommy T’ Gobena playing to his friends on the side during “Malandrino”, confetti nearer the end of the set, or the condom balloon that floated above the crowd (but couldn’t make it through the whole set without popping). Also during “Malandrino”, singer/percussionist Elizabeth Sun rushed to the front at the end of the song, but would be busting moves even when she was in the back.
Or on giant strap-on bass drum, like during their breakthrough single, “Start Wearing Purple”. It was impressive that the band could hold off on that song for so late in the set, without being encore or close-into-encore piece, as it’s still the track that they’re most identified with. They’ve got other numbers where the crowd went perhaps even wilder, such as the night’s following “Wanderlust King” (from 2007’s Super Taranta! – QRO review) or earlier “Immigraniada (We Comin’ Rougher)” (from 2010’s Trans-Continental Hustle – QRO review).
One also doesn’t need to have imbibed to get swept along with Gogol Bordello’s manic energy (though it doesn’t hurt) – Hütz returned for encore by playing all of “Alcohol” solo acoustic (with crowd sing-along from the inebriated and the straight-edge), but of course it was all hands on deck for the evening’s closer, “Sally”. Gogol Bordello’s world music element, including in instrumentation, makes them far more skilled that the likes of your run-of-the-mill garage-party act, but they’re also much more fun than what most white folks think of when they hear the words, “world music.” So wherever you are, whatever you’re drinking, whenever the date, raise a glass to Gogol Bordello.