It's appropriate that one of Gogol Bordello frontman Eugene Hütz's instruments of choice is an old-fashioned red fire bucket--on which he happily bangs and sometimes slams to the stage, with his microphone still inside--because the New York City-based band of gypsy-punk immigrants performs as if in a constant state of emergency.
Returning to Tucson for at least the fifth time in this young century, Gogol Bordello proved for more than two hours why it has earned a rabid local following, playing party music for the apocalypse.
Gogol Bordello wanted to show us that it's the end of the world as they know it, and damned if they don't feel fine, dancing in abandon on the embers of a global culture in the process of burning itself out.
The band's music is a crazy-quilt combination of high-voltage, high-energy folk rock, infused with touches of music with Slavic, Balkan, Romany and Jamaican origins, as well as old-time burlesque and the downtown-NYC avant-garde. Holding its center is the wiry Hütz, who sports a moustache even cheesier than Borat Sagdiyev's, comes on like a maniacal ringleader and sings with the loose passion of a Joe Strummer or Shane MacGowan.
Although fiddler Sergey Ryabtsev and accordionist Yuri Lemeshev battled Hütz for audience attention, the group's secret weapon was bassist Thomas Gobena, whose aggressive dub and funk rhythms combined with Eliot Ferguson's punk-paced drumming to keep the mob of fans squeezed into the hall pistoning up and down throughout the show.
The band attacked favorites such as the totally infectious "Not a Crime" (which, like most of the songs, elicited frenzied shout-along vocals from the audience), "Wanderlust King," "American Wedding" and "Super Taranta!," the last three of those from its most recent album. At one point, flaps dropped from the huge Gogol Bordello banner behind the stage to reveal the slogan, "Think Locally, Fuck Globally," and the band launched into the song of the same name, which had a charming klezmer-meets-ragtime feel.
A pair of alarmingly skinny dancers (Pamela Jintana Racine and Elizabeth Sun) occasionally shouted backup vocals, appeared in multiple costumes, banged on a bass drum and cymbals and usually posed in mock seriousness with fists in the air, as if in the midst of a revolution. Maybe they were.