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Gogol Bordello – Live At Axis Mundi

(SideOneDummy)

All ‘tached up and nowhere to go, here come Eugene Hutz‘s roving raggle-taggle band of gypsy punks, like an Eastern European (via New York) Pogues, raised on Rollins and Biafra instead of Strummer and Vicious. Dressed like a variety of seafarers, circus performers and drunks, the aesthetic is clearly a grubby one as Gogol Bordello take the stage with Ultimate. And, predictably, the crowd go absolutely fucking apeshit.

It’s hard to describe the energy of this band when playing live, but you can get a little bit closer with the live DVD in this rather handsome set (also containing a CD, of which more later). It’s still nowhere near the intensity of the real thing, but, like watching one of those old black and white videos of A-bomb tests, you still get the sense of amazement and that, while not in the presence of godlike levels of awesome, you are at least WATCHING godlike levels of awesome, and watching a whole bunch of people who genuinely ARE in its presence. This is not to belittle the DVD, though – to say “it’s not as good as being there would have been” is kind of par for the course, and a criticism that faces any concert recording. Unless it’s a shit band, obviously, in which case it’s always BETTER than being there would have been. For a start it’s easy to leave without having to go through all that malarkey with cloakroom tickets. And the drinks are cheaper. But I digress.

Hutz is clearly loving every minute of it – from ‘tache to toe, he’s the carnival showman of your weirdest dreams, throwing himself bare-chested about the stage, or bedecked in ribbons like Perry Farrell at his faded-glam fuckedest, and telling his tales of immigration, hookers, booze and partying. Yes, this is clearly a band who don’t need to take motivational lectures on the therapeutic capabilities of partying from Andrew WK, though that would be a sight worth seeing. “Dogs Were Barking”, in particular, has it all- the by-now-familiar Ukrainian folk/punk (if you’re unfamiliar with their oeuvre, think of Les Negresses Vert but more punk), dub interlude, toasting, and, well, getting drunk at a wedding. His enthusiasm, and that of the rest of the band, is infectious. It makes you want to hit things (rhythmically and percussively, as opposed to maliciously, it should be said). At times watching Hutz and Ryabtsev (whose violin bow looks more like candy floss by the end), you can imagine you’re watching Asterix, and… not Obelix, that’s for sure. More like Billy Connolly playing Captain Haddock.

Like all the best bands (The Birthday Party being the prime example), Gogol Bordello have mastered that “barely-harnessed chaos” thing. They’re seemingly chaotic and ramshackle, but in reality they’re tight as fuck. You’d have to be for this to work. When Hutz jokes about “gypsy speed metal prog-rock dub” when introducing “Forces Of Victory,” well, let me just say that there is many a true word spoken in jest. “Start Wearing Purple” features extensive forays into the crowd, without ever degenerating into “the band just play some shit while the main dude arses about” timewasting. THAT kind of tight. And the epic close of “Baro Foro” features one of the backing singer/percussionists dancing on her drum. More spectacular than it sounds, given that it’s being held aloft by the crowd at this point. You also get four promo videos and a bunch of other stuff including a documentary (Creative People Must Be Stopped) and some extra live tracks.

The accompanying CD, while awesome, is less than essential, being mostly demos and sessions. If you’re a fan, you’ve probably got all these songs, but the novelty value of the different versions still makes it worth a listen. Especially the session version of “Alcohol,” which sounds, if anything, a lot drunker than on the album.

Overall a spectacularly epic win for Gogol Bordello again, but it’s likely to induce a sense of envy, unless you were actually AT the gig. It’s well worth that mild discomfort, though, just to get wrecked and pretend to be partying with the clown prince of gypsy punk and the ‘Tachemaster in Chief, Eugene.

-Deuteronemu 90210 twirling his whiskers-

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