It was several things all at once: the mischievous glimmer in their eyes as the large ensemble stormed the stage, the crowd’s rowdy applause just after the Gogol Bordello banner dropped behind them, and of course, the clenched-muscle, swashbuckling energy of their one-of-a-kind frontman, Eugene Hütz, who arrived wearing a wide smile and a gun holster stuffed with flowers. Around him, instantly, was absolute madness: impossibly fast strings, accordion, drums, and acoustic percussion exploding on all sides as the gypsy punks made the brand new song, “Break into Your Higher Self,” sound like a timeworn classic – and feel like a ticket to a faraway land. Saturday’s Capitol Theatre show was the very next night after the release of their latest record, Seekers and Finders, and, as one might expect, the band was intent on making it a wild celebration.
Port Chester, New York, which is within slingshotting distance of Connecticut, is a bit of a haul from NYC by train. Thus, the fans swarming the tiny town for Gogol Bordello – easy to spot in their enviable merch from past shows and brightly-patterned skirts and scarves – were among the most committed, and they were duly rewarded. If you’re an architecture freak, you probably know the historic Capitol Theatre for its designer, Thomas W. Lamb, one of the most eminent masterminds behind cinemas and theatres in the 20th century. If you’re a music freak, you probably just know it for its flawless acoustics (thanks Mr. Lamb), and on this night with Eugene and friends – an 8, sometimes 9-person group – the sound was impeccable. As Eugene recently told us over whiskey, their lineup includes representation from all over the globe – Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Ethiopia, Thailand and L.A. included – and this multicultural synergy seems to enrich every facet of their set. The serpentine twists of their Eastern European melodies, rooted in Romani themes and set aflame at the speed of NYC punk, were scintillating and arrestingly fresh to the ear.
As Eugene played ringmaster in the center of the spectacle, riling up jumping fans with his emotive vocals and narrative lyrics, the invigorating performance spanned their discography. Favorites like “Not a Crime,” “My Companjera,” a trumpet-rich “Mishto,” and “Start Wearing Purple” were sprinkled throughout their generous setlist, which, of course, gave us a fine taste of Seekers and Finders, a release that really warrants such partying. Port Chester was treated to something special with Gogol Bordello’s encore, which found them popping up in the VIP section for an intimate, acoustic break and sending shivers around the room with a memorable “Illumination.”
And the visual side of the show was just as enticing; a sensory feast of swirling skirts, limber dancing, and synchronized lights – not to mention the haunting presence of two freakishly tall, black-cloaked figures, with glowing eyes and human hands, who snuck up on either side of the stage to watch over the madness from time to time. But the beauty of it was, on the strength of Gogol Bordello’s performance, and with all the crowd’s fervent stomping and syncopated “HEY!”s, it was actually easy to miss such phenomena; things that might have grabbed headlines at shows with less action. The whole band could have hidden and played under the same black cloaks. They still would have had our undivided attention.
Photos: Shayne Hanley
Article: Olivia Isenhart