Gogol Bordello: Lollapalooza

By • Aug 6th, 2008 • Category: Concert Reviews
Photo courtesy of Randy Cremean / Soundcheck Magazine

Photo courtesy of Randy Cremean / Soundcheck Magazine

If Eugene Hütz ever takes his eclectic band back inside dingy clubs, he’d be doing a disservice to festivals worldwide. Promoters need Gogol Bordello just as much as the gypsy punks need those large venues. The band embodies everything about open-air concerts, and does so knowingly and affectionately.

Commanding Lollapalooza’s AT&T main stage less than four hours before Radiohead headlined Friday’s lineup, Hütz and his expansive nonet roamed the huge structure with the same spastic enthusiasm that he exudes in his intimate DJ sets or during interviews.

Shirtless and hiding behind a sticker-covered acoustic guitar, Hütz struck a memorable figure: his trademark handlebar mustache still popped from between his shoulder-length locks. His blue pants sported a patch and numerous jangling belts. The Ukrainian born singer happily snarled his way through 11 songs, including crowd favorites “Wanderlust King” and “American Wedding.”

His eight band members squeaked, squealed and squawked alongside the charismatic front man. Whether it was fiddle from the outfit’s second most recognizable member, Sergey Ryabtsev, or the revved-up dancing of Elizabeth Sun and Pamela Jintana Racine, the collective rambled through the hour-long set much like the nomadic Eastern Europeans who so much of their music stems from.

In fact, this sensory overload is the same reason Gogol Bordello albums can be exhausting and difficult to listen to. In close quarters – on headphones, or car stereos – there’s no escape from the buzz-saw vigor. But outside, there’s relief. The music can become secondary to the dancing; the noise can be a background for the visuals, and the crowd can get lost in their own Hula hooping, Frisbee games or anything they want. When Hütz and Co. isn’t forced to be absorbed all at once – like in a small rock club – the music becomes the perfect soundtrack to an intense outdoor party.

In turn, few acts can captivate tens of thousands so effectively without being the concertgoers’ collective favorite band, with the sheer size and demeanor of the nine-members group working to its advantage.

Combining songs from last year’s Super Taranta!, such as the reggae-tinged “Tribal Connection” and the album/set opener “Ultimate,” with tunes from 2005’s Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike, Gogol Bordello blended its seemingly random performance into a cohesive chaos that could work this beautifully in only a few settings.

And both Hütz and Lollapalooza promoters knew that.

Soundcheck Magazine, August 2008

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