Gogol Bordello: Beckett University, Leeds

The students have dispersed for summer and Leeds Beckett’s bar is filled with over 30’s guzzling heightened priced lager. Dave Hause and The Mermaid open the evening with quintessentially American mellow rock alike to Gaslight Anthem. Followed by an Australian take on Green day, The Living End warm up the audience with power chords and Hendrix solos. Cheney leads wearing an outfit from the 80s, shredding some seriously skilled guitar.

Feeling the buzz and hearing stories in the pre-gig bar, it is clear to me I am about to experience something spectacular. A recorded track of Gogol Bordello plays as each of the 9 members enter separately receiving hoots, cheers and wails. Hutz receives the loudest entrance and dominates the stage looking as haggard as Captain Jack Sparrow, swilling a bottle of beer and flailing in various directions. ‘What the fuck is going on Leeds?’ he demands with his long greasy mop of hair and small crucifix around his neck. He wears an open blazer (which is removed within minutes) suited with trackies in which a bouquet of flowers rests in his crotch – he looks fantastic. When he picks up his acoustic guitar it’s as if we’re watching a pirate ship at the peak of their boozed-up evening. There is dancing, clapping and everyone shouting ‘ey! ey! ey!’.

Gypsy Punk is the perfect definition for Gogol Bordello, a genre they have created and fuelled for over a decade. Large personalities and different heritages can be heard, interwoven in their entire repertoire with each member adding their own nationality. Most numbers sound of Irish descent with fiddles and accordion, but often wash into sections of reggae as tempos sway and blue bearded Gobena slaps his bass.

It is musical madness and thoroughly entertaining. Each performer alternates running to the front of the stage and jumping on the monitors, enthralling the eager fans with chants and punchy lines. The two females of the Gogol Bordello clan, Tobias and Racine, enter in a chilled interlude, belting their vocals over the thick textured backing band. With theatrics like a West End show they curl their bodies like witches off the front of the stage. Racine and Hutz rub bodies in ‘Saboteur Blues’, a massive track off this year’s “Seekers and Finders” where Ryabtsev’s violin is a key element.

Their set is organised chaos bouncing off one another front of stage, shouting incomprehensible nonsense. Despite Hutz being Ukranian, his vocal delivery often sounds reminiscent of Flogging Molly or Biffy Clyro. They are spunky with two-step rhythms and unfathomable energy as they jig and fly around their platform. It’s a supercharged show and equality between them all is apparent and they eagerly lure the audience to be involved as much as possible (especially when Hutz sprays his beer all over them). There are various solos including a Zeppelin style guitar and a rap ‘bringing a brief message of peace and love’.

The highlight of my night was ‘Alcohol’ from 2007’s Super Taranta! featuring a downscale hook played on Newmer’s accordion then flamenco guitar then bass. Huntz sings ‘And you know that I’ll pick up / Every time you call / Just to thank you one more time / Alcohol’ over Ryabtsev’s violin stabs and Ortiz moving from cymbals to tom rolls.

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