Three dates at the Commodore for Gypsy Punks
by Paul Falardeau (Arts & Life Editor)
By now, most people have heard of gypsy punk mainstays, Gogol Bordello, who took up a three night residence, October 22nd to the 24th, at the Commodore Ballroom, in Vancouver. The New York based group’s newest album, Transcontinental Hustle, is the result of the dual influences of veteran producer Rick Rubin and lead singer Eugene Hutz’s time spent in Brazil. Hustle combines the sounds of Latin America and Rubin’s clean and simple production with the classic gypsy punk sounds fans are familiar with. If you haven’t bought the new album yet – or if you’re missing any of their back catalogue – now is the time to get on it.
The transfer from studio to stage is a natural one for Gogol Bordello; without losing any of the technical style or sound of their albums, the band infuses its songs with all the ferocity of a charging bear and the cockiness of a strutting peacock.
Before we get into Gogol Bordello’s performance Friday night, some attention must be paid to the capable openers, Forro in the Dark. Some might claim that many of today’s opening acts seem to be chosen at random and are unable to measure up to the bands they share the bill with, yet Forro was an apt companion to Gogol Bordello in style, skill and energy. The Brazilian band, no doubt another acquisition of Hutz’s time in the country, features high energy drums and enough flute to make even the most vivacious version of “Aqualung” blush. Forro’s Latin rhythms got the crowd jumping early and about a third of Gogol Bordello had joined them on the stage by the time their set was done. High praise is deserved for the openers, who prove to be the exception to the rule.
On my fifth time seeing them live, Gogol Bordello has lost none of their lustre either. The now familiar sequence of dance, sing, love sounds corny, but, in this case, it fits the bill. I have never seen an audience as universally happy as at a Gogol Bordello show. The primal energy of the band never turns into angry slam dancing or anything remotely negative. There are traditional jigs being jigged, entire songs echoed word for word and nothing but shit-eating grins on every face on the stage and in the crowd.
Despite Gogol Bordello concerts now taking on a familiarity, there were many moments of unique thrills and interest throughout the night: Hutz chiding the crowd for not knowing the Yiddish lyrics for the half-cover the band did of The Beatles “Flying,” dancer/percussionist Elizabeth Sun’s soaring vocal performance or even just the girl with stars in her eyes randomly putting the death grip on my hands as she came near tears.
The band itself comes from many countries: Ukraine, Russia, Ethiopia, Israel, Scotland, Hong Kong, Thailand, Ecuador and the U.S.A., but as they affectionately shook their joyful fans hands at the shows end, it was clear that they were as happy to do a show – or three – in Vancouver as anywhere else in the world. If you haven’t seen them yet, don’t worry, they’ll be back. If you haven’t heard them yet, you’re missing out. Their good-willed, multicultural mania is the future of music.