Gogol Bordello in Dublin, March 2011

Multi-ethnic gypsy punk band from New York, well know for its theatrical stage shows. I hve seen the band  touring Europe to present their latest work: “Transcontinental Hustle”, released in 2010.

The transatlantic folk punks – whose membership is derived from seven different countries, centering on New York City, with mainman Eugene Hutz hailing from Ukraine – tend to skip these shores on their rare trips across the pond. One performance at Oxegen (in 2007) aside, they made their first real impression last year opening for Rage Against The Machine.

Gogol Bordello took to the stage a little after nine, trailed by their utterly unique frontman Hutz, sporting capri-cut tracksuit bottoms and a handlebar moustache to die for. Opening track ‘Tribal Connection’ – from 2007’s Super Taranta! – set the tone for the evening, which was largely made up of tracks from the cosmopolitan group’s extensive back-catalogue.

Of the new tracks, only lead single ‘Pala Tute’ stood out, and it was buried towards the end of the set – an implicit admission, perhaps, that the group’s major label debut, Trans-Continental Hustle, isn’t quite of the same vintage. With such a strong catalogue of songs, few were in a position to complain about the quality of the setlist. The group reached across all five studio albums for inspiration, with such gems as pro-weed anthem ‘Not A Crime’ and ‘Wanderlust King’ pulled out early doors, while Gypsy Punk’s ‘Immigrant Punks’ and revolutionary firestarter ‘Start Wearing Purple’ were whipped out as the night wore on.

The evening hit a bit of a snag toward the mid-point when Hutz introduced crowd favourite ‘American Wedding’ in that incredibly fake crowd-baiting way that Jon Bon Jovi introduces one of his band’s many iconic hits, and you got the sense the audience weren’t quite ready to bite either. Another sore point occurred moments later, when Hutz had a pint of Guinness delivered to the stage by a Dublin GAA shirt-wearing roadie (presumably an authentic Dub, judging by the Arnott’s sponsorship). He took one sip, mumbled something non-committal about culture, and promptly had it taken away. (It would later re-emerge for Hutz to dance around with and spill all over the stage, but crucially not to drink from).

A large Ireland flag was undoubtedly thrown on stage at some point – as is mandatory at such gigs – but then the frontman surprised everybody (most of all myself, having been decidedly unimpressed by the forced Guinness antics) by whipping out not one, but two Shane MacGowan songs for the encore. More impressive still, he began with ‘The Song With No Name,’ a relatively obscure song from MacGowan’s post-Pogues band The Popes – obscure enough, in fact, that only a small minority recognised the song, to Eugene’s evident surprise.

What followed was altogether more familiar, as Hutz and Ryabtsev united for a duet of ‘Dirty Old Town’ that brought the house down in every sense but the literal one. Given the amount of drink consumed on the night, it was a sensible choice, and definitely more welcome than the customary ‘Boys are Back in Town’ that visiting bands tend to knock out on visits to Dublin. Extensive negotiations followed with event organisers before Eugene was allowed to finish with a solo rendition of – an appropriate choice – ‘Alcohol.’

The house staff began to pump ‘Redemption Song’ on the speakers in an effort to get the band off-stage – the curfew having long since passed at this point – but the band graciously hung around to lead the crowd in a sing-song, a fitting end to what will surely be remembered as one of the best gigs to take place in Ireland this year.

Review by Dave Donnelly

Photos by me  – forgive me the quality of soem of them, but I had to hide my camera on thisw ocasion -phew!