You don’t have to be well into your drinking years to know that New Year’s Eve can be kind of a shit show, “Amateur night” as Dennis Leary once described it. But you also want to do something in that time between Christmas and heading back to the office to face down another year, particularly after COVID shut down New Year’s 2020 and the Omicron variant messed with the end of 2021. Thankfully, Gogol Bordello was there for their hometown of New York City, with not-one-not-two-but-three shows to close out 2022 at Brooklyn Bowl, starting on Thursday, December 29th.
Thursday night was perhaps for those who had other plans for the weekend, or just didn’t want to have plans on this particular weekend, but was a packed & wild crowd. Not as packed & wild as Gogol Bordello, mind you, the many-membered band filling up the stage. Known for years as a great live act, the immigrant punks were on fire from the start with “Break Into Your Higher Self”, and it wasn’t just frontman extraordinaire Eugene Hütz (QRO interview) bouncing around on stage. Pedro Erazo managed to roam from dipping his mike into the crowd to being in the back on keys with drummer Korey Kingston. Long-running violinist Sergey Ryabtsev didn’t let his age deter him. Ashley Tobias even pulled out her giant strap-on drum multiple times, including the band’s hit single “Start Wearing Purple” and in the encore.
Though the band released SOLIDARITINE (QRO review) just last fall, this set list mixed from across their now long discography. Yes, there was much from 2005’s breakthrough Gypsy Punks Underdog World Strike (including “Purple”), but also saw the return of old singer Elizabeth Sun for SOLIDARITINE’s “Focus Coin”. Other ‘greatest hits’ included “Wonderlust King” (2007’s Super Taranta! – QRO review), “My Companjera” (2010’s Trans-Continental Hustle – QRO review), and “Saboteur Blues” (2017’s Seekers and Finders – QRO review). There was even “Through the Roof ‘n’ Underground” from 2002’s Multi Contra Culti vs. Irony, and “The first song from the first ever Gogol Bordello album,” “Sacred Darling” off of 1999’s Voi-La Intruder.
Gogol Bordello’s profile has risen this year, but in the most tragic way, as Hütz is a native of Ukraine, and there was much advocation at this show for his unjustly attacked home country. Hütz dedicated “Companjera” to all those hurt by, “This fucked up war in Ukraine!” The band covered “Solidarity”, noting that it was written by British punks Angelic Upstarts for the Polish workers fighting against Soviet dictatorship back then, now for Polish people helping their brothers & sisters Ukraine fight against, “The same fucking Soviet bitch!” Oh, and the show ended with Hütz waving the Ukrainian blue & yellow as he stood atop of Tobias’ giant drum – as it was held aloft by the crowd, because this was a Gogol Bordello gig…
Hütz also praised Brooklyn Bowl (QRO venue review) as, “The right way to see a band – without a fucking barrier!” Since COVID, the physical distance between act and fans has only grown, but this was a show were the dedicated up front could reach out and touch the band. There were also some attempted crowd-surfs, because of course there were.
For the encore, Hütz came out with fellow NYC punks Jesse Malin & Walter Schreifels, for their ‘Hard Core Highwayman,’ their new super-group that was on the bill. They did some acoustic punk, including a Sick of It All medley and Fugazi, Hütz praising the revival of the city’s punk community. Then the rest of Gogol Bordello returned to the stage for the likes of “Sacred Darling”, “Forces of Victory”, and ended the night with the band & more taking a big bow (after flying the blue-and-yellow flag).
Who knows what 2023 will brings – who could have bet what 2022 would end up giving us? Thankfully, Gogol Bordello knew how to rock the year out right.