March 9, 2018 Gogol Bordello Close Out Tour In Style The Fonda Theatre, Los Angeles, CA 3-5-18
One of the most awe-inspiring moments to be had in the presence of live music is watching large troupes perform that clearly have a strong bond and understanding of each other along with the individual roles they play that make up a unified collaboration of musical artists. One such band is the New York City-based Gogol Bordello, a band full of energy and intrigue. Together since 1999, the band is known for their one-of-a-kind live performances. Thankfully, they have consistently remained on the road for years. Releasing their seventh studio album, Seekers and Finders, back in August of 2017, they continue to travel the highways and byways of the USA. Making their way out to the West in early 2018, shows began on February 18th up in Vancouver, BC and continued down the coast. Concluding the run on Monday, March 5th at The Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles, California, Gogol Bordello cast their magical Gypsy Punk spell on a packed house of eagerly excited and dedicated patrons.
The one and only support act on this evening consisted of another New York City-based group, the brass band Lucky Chops. A band who are most known for their jazzy covers of popular Rock tunes, Lucky Chops have been going strong for over a decade now. Wasting little time to entertain, Josh Holcomb (trombone), Daro Behroozi (tenor saxophone), Charles Sams (percussion), Joshua Gawel (trumpet), and Raphael Buyo (sousaphone) played a decent set of a few covers with zero vocals throughout. Highlights that were included were The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” and Lipps Inc.’s “Funkytown.” Also playing a slew of original tunes such as “Without You” and “Kyle and Paul,” the most illuminating characteristic of Lucky Chops was the non-traditional instrumentation used in their covers that gives them a brass-based twist. Nonetheless, they were a fitting supporting act for the night and a delightful listen.
As Lucky Chops held their own weight in the show, the anticipation for Gogol Bordello was immense as many patrons were in for round two in a row since the band had just played The Troubadour in Los Angeles the night before. Gogol Bordello, who originated back in 1998, always makes a splashing entrance, and main player, Ukraine born Eugene Hütz – who relishes on lead vocals, acoustic guitar, and on occasional percussion – literally is nothing but non-stop entertainment for all. The other hero of the evening was Violinist Sergey Ryabtsev, who continually commands the show with his other-worldly playing and fancy handiwork. Although the band resides in New York City, which in itself is a melting pot of culture, the members of Gogol Bordello are also a melting pot of players that bring a multitude of cultures and styles into the eclectic, yet cohesive group that excels at Gypsy Punk and Folk Rock.
The troupe on this evening was comprised of at least eight members, plus special guest Singer Regina Spektor, who fell into the musical scene at a very young age – starting in Russia before her family moved to America. She made a couple appearances throughout the set and sang a pleasant and liberating duet-style with Hütz, among others. One of the traits that sets Gogol Bordello apart from in the music world is its creatively unique mix of fast-paced Dance-enhanced Folk tunes with witty and lightheartedly silly lyrics to boot.
They played for over two hours, extending the set to well after midnight and dishing out around eighteen songs to the audience’s delight. Guitarist Boris Pelekh did a fantastic job of keeping up the energy throughout that led to ecstatic jumping towards the very end. Highlights included the early songs “Immigrant Punk” and the ever-popular “Alcohol,” which is a very funny tune with various complexities of musical change-ups between the hilarious vocals encompassing a love-and-hate relationship with alcohol. Then, in support of the aforementioned Seekers And Finders, they performed the solid tune “Walking On The Burning Coal” along with a couple other tasteful songs from the same origin.
Hütz also has a history as an actor, most known for his role in 2005’s Everything Is Illuminated, a film in which he contributed the highly-popular tune “Start Wearing Purple.” That theatrical background in mind, during the live set, it was around this time that Hütz made a crowd-surfing boat out of a large bass drum and sang his heart out while fans kept the drum boat from rocking. Some of the songs feature multiple singers and an accordion player along with the occasional saxophone, which in this context does not stray too far into any Jazz realm, but just adds a bit of Funk to the Punk.
Always fun to watch, Hütz likes to stick to the acoustic guitar playing for the most part, and when he is not strumming away, he is using his prop roses in an entertaining way or ripping blank pages out of the William Blake story book to throw out into the audience. Doing just that all set long, other grandiose tunes that remain never forgotten were “Passport,” “Letter To Mother,” “Wonderlust King,” and “Think Locally, Fuck Globally” for the win.
One common trait in a band’s setlist is to play a brand new tune followed by a very old one to incite a shock value comparison. Furthermore, it remind the fans of where the band came from and where they are headed. Gogol Bordello does this exceptionally well, and assures their audience they will continue to bring their brand of sunshine to the cloudiest of days for many years to come. Unfortunately, the West Coast tour is done, but now Gogol Bordello take their act across the land to Australia before they are off to Europe in May. Hopefully plotting more US dates soon, anyone lucky enough to attend a Gogol Bordello show are guaranteed to walk out with a raging smile on their face, and this night was certainly no exception.
Photo credit : Karina Diane Concert Photography