Gogol Bordello | 08.06.10

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Throughout their progression, they are one of the few acts I have seen who has managed to maintain artistic integrity while stretching their loyal fan base to the masses.

The Pageant, St. Louis
Back in the St. Louis Creepy Crawl chambers of 2005, when asked the significance of the song “Start Wearing Purple,” Gogol Bordello fiddler Sergey Ryabtsev concisely stated, “Purple is halfway between Heaven and Earth.”
In correspondence with their latest album, Trans-Continental Hustle, Gogol Bordello graced the Pageant’s stage in top form. This is a band that knows how to work a crowd, more so than any band I have seen in recent memory. The energy projected from a Gogol concert, both onstage and off, is surely enough to power a small metropolitan area. With a lead singer who inspires charisma reminiscent of early Mick Jagger/Steven Tyler, even if you aren’t moved by their music (which has been coined with the unique genre of “gypsy punk”), I dare anyone to leave a Gogol Bordello concert and not feel completely electrified.
While Gogol’s origin is from the Lower East Side of New York, their audacious rockstar frontman Eugene Hütz hails from Ukraine, and their fiddler (Sergey Ryabtsev) and accordion player (Yuri Lemeshev) are from Russia. Combined with an Israeli guitarist (Yuri Lemeshev), an Ethiopian bassist (Thomas Gobena), and a cultural myriad of backup singers and percussionists, Gogol is a musical poster child for the term “melting pot.”
With such diversity, it is no wonder Gogol has defined a new sound for eastern-influenced music. Hütz sings with a thick accent, making it nearly impossible to interpret the band’s often campy, yet captivatingly poetic lyrics. However, this lack of verbal communication is far trumped by Gogol’s musical vigor and enthusiasm. One would be hard-pressed to find a pondering soul at a Gogol concert; theirs is a show designed for movement and near metaphysical euphoria.  
I was introduced to Gogol by a friend who has followed them all the way back from their early inception, and has witnessed them grow from playing venues such as the Creepy Crawl, to punk-rocking the main stage at Lollapalooza this year. And throughout their progression, they are one of the few acts I have seen who has managed to maintain artistic integrity while stretching their loyal fan base to the masses.
Gogol’s Pageant set was a combination of old and new, infusing with songs from their latest album Trans-Continental Hustle, such as “My Companjera” and the title track, alongside songs from prior albums such as “Ultimate,” “Not a Crime” and “Purple.” My minor complaint is that the show ended all too soon, their set seemingly lasting little over an hour, even with two encores. That, and they were missing a backup dancer, and two backup dancers are always better than one. Despite these shortcomings Gogol Bordello still yet again managed to leave me awestruck, establishing one of my favorite shows of 2010. | Sheila Shahpari

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