I've been to hundreds of concerts over the years, and almost always, I expect to feel entertained and to have a sense of the real context from which a band's or soloist's music originates. Many times, I've expected a phenomenal show and saw something significantly less remarkable.
I saw Gogol Bordello at Gypsy Tea Room about 5 years ago, and they had at all times at least 8 people on stage, despite the smallish venue and the not-quite-capacity crowd, and they poured their very hearts into a wild cabaret-like performance that was a tour-de-force. This set a high bar for how I would consider any of their future offerings. There is an infectious joy about a group of people who love the music they are making, and who love just getting out there and reveling in that moment. Such was that previous show, and I wondered if the intimacy and the intensity could be similarly conveyed at the Granada theater, and I frankly had my doubts.
I went into the Granada Sunday night with these expectations and curiosity about how the band may have changed in the past several years. GB has been featured in a major motion picture [Everything is Illuminated] as a roving band, and lead singer Eugene Hutz played one of the lead characters in that same film. Also, their anthemic "Start Wearing Purple" was the soundtrack for the closing credits of that film. Will the high-profile spotlight have ruined Gogol Bordello? Will Eugene be less accessible, less personable onstage now that he's performed in front of billions on LiveEarth broadcast, and in that performance holding his own onstage with the scenery chewing Madonna? Will they have slicked-up their show, trimming its nose-hairs and giving it a Brazilian wax?
Hells to the No, baby!
To my utter delight, I found Gogol Bordello essentially unchanged and unaffected by anything I could even obliquely denounce as Hollywood bullshit, embracing nature and her later-life offerings of hair in unexpected places. If anything, they were more themselves than ever, putting out a well-paced show that alternated between more sedate moments and en masse audience fist-pumping and singalongs of abandon. Their old free-wheeling cabaret element in the form of dancing backup singers was the same lively, humorous touch it always has been, and each instrumentalist's mastery was evident in virtuoso performances. Particularly the violinist and the accordion players add so much depth to the stage persona, that it's almost tempting to think of the core of the group as merely those two in trio with the leader Eugene Hutz.
At one point, Eugene wryly remarked "In the midst of all this debauchery, it is easy to forget that we are actually quite sophisticated." Actually, I think he's more evolved than the average bear, and I'd say that analysis holds true for the broad cross-section of this audience, as well. Yes, Hot Topic was representing, but more than that, I saw a great breadth of age groups and personal styles that reflected true originality and forethought. There were some western-wear types, Suicide Girls, stoner geeks, older and more sedate folk, hot young things, and everything in between, all turned out and looking like a funky scramble of the best of styles spanning the past century. Yes, even some flapper girls were in attendance. I think this was the most varied and yet consistently interesting audience I've ever seen at a show, and this may be the best indicator in many years that something exciting is happening culturally in Dallas.
Songs performed included Wonderlust King, Taranta, Alcohol, American Wedding, I Would Never Wanna Be Young Again, Not a Crime, and of course, Start Wearing Purple. Mishto! is sung entirely in the Gypsy tongue Romany, and it was fantastic, and the entire audience on ground level jumped in place, so filled with electricity was the air.
As the show was winding down, a stunning girl with a Jean Seberg haircut came by and gave my sister and me a little slip of paper, inviting us to the band's afterparty at a bar down Greenville where Eugene would be spinning records, and all the band would be in attendance. It would have been grand to go and to talk to the band again, but momma gettin' too old for that mess. I drank water all night, sweated like a fiend and probably smelled like a goat, so getting home to the shower was high on my priority list. Plus, the concert ended on such a high note that gilding the lily would have been overkill. But it's nice to think how that would have been.
This was one of those times when I felt like a kid. Remember when you were at the amusement park as a child and you waited in line and rode your favorite ride, and then climbed out of the seat and headed to the back of the line for the same ride? Well, that's how I feel now: I want to go again. I didn't want this night to end. I'm disappointed that I can't make it to Austin for the Monday night show, but I'm simply too fragile to make the drive down tomorrow afternoon and then to make it back to work Tuesday. If I had any option of doing so, I'd be there. As things stand, I can't complain about just getting one dose of one of the top 4 concerts of my entire life. But I would take a second helping, if that were an option.
If you ever have an opportunity, even at some excessive effort, you really must go see Gogol Bordello and kick up your heels. No need to thank me, but I know you'll want to. I'll try to post a photo when I can access the computer at work later.
Have a great week!