Gogol Bordello / DeVotchka / Alain Johannes

The HMV Forum, London on Wed 15th Dec 2010

Gogol Bordello have a natural flair for imbibing raucous affairs, infecting everyone surrounding them with an undeniable urge to jump around in as carefree and celebratory a fashion as one would at a Bar Mitzvah party. Their music too matches this - Eugene Hutz, hailing from Ukraine, successfully forming a New York based, Slavic inspired band with a notorious reputation for musically professional yet chaotic performances that have seen them booted out of venues like CBGB's in the past.

Often described as "gypsy punks", and boasting a 2005 album of that titling, they merge guitar and violin with accordion and banjo; while the crashing of symbols and urgent vocals add a punk slant. All this has marked them as an edgy and musically accomplished hybrid of traditional Eastern European folk and contemporary brash tones.

The fact that their music is so outlandish, so far removed from the typical genres one would expect to sell out a venue the size of Kentish Town's 3,000 capacity The Forum, works for the fact that the energy and theatrics they display as a collective is so honest and engaging. They are showmen at heart.

Support for the evening deftly matched the genre of Hutz' making: the soft folk tones of Alain Johannes made way for DeVotchka, perhaps most famous for scoring the 'Little Miss Sunshine' movie soundtrack, and who, with similar thunderous sounds produced a more constructed variety of Balkan inspired tunes. All this essentially was the calm before the storm of the musical mayhem of Gogol Bordello however.

The set charged forth from the minute Hutz and his cohorts set foot on stage to waves of applause and surges forth from the audience. Theirs is the kind of music that instils a closeness and there were no seen traces of the usual impersonal vibes often encountered at other gigs. Everyone in sight was dancing with strangers, sharing drinks, smiles and the joy of the moment.

How Gogol Bordello keep up the energy beggars belief, Hutz reached out over the audience gesticulating wildly, imploringly projecting his lyrics to the captivated crowd before him. While the band which grew in size over the course of the night; adding additional percussion to the mix, climaxed in a carnivale-esque cacophony of sound with the encore of 'American Wedding', to which we were reminded "We wanna see how good you are at dancing samba!"

Besides this dusting of interaction the lengthy set moved from song to song, with no gaps for inane banter, as if the breakdown of this momentum would have made it too hard to pick up the pace again. Instead they were a runaway train, moving through tracks from 2007's 'Super Taranta', with 'Wonderlust King' provoking a crowd singalong, onto favourites 'Start Wearing Purple' and 'Trans-Continental Hussle'. Unsurprisingly the party didn't stop there, with around half the venue again filled for an after-show performance which was just as energetic as the original set.

Visually an arresting image of clashing colours and garish outfits; instruments known and unknown and traditional Russian songs thrown in for good measure, Gogol Bordello are true misfit punk, folk rockers. A truly exhausting performance that invigorated some warmth into the cold of December, in which no one left short of a smile.

article by: Melanie McGovern

published: 17/12/2010 16:48

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