Gogol Bordello – O2 Academy, Glasgow, Sun 15 Dec 2013
Eugene Hutz and his band of gypsy punks deliver a patchy but overall winning show
There have been a few recent changes to the so-called ‘familia undestructable’ that comprise Gogol Bordello – a many-limbed throng of globally-sourced gypsy punks led by charismatic Ukranian frontman Eugene Hutz. Guitarist Michael Bernard Ward has been drafted in to replace Oren Kaplan, who made headlines earlier this year when he accused Hutz of embezzling GB funds; while (comparatively) youthful accordionist Pasha Newmerzginsky has stepped into the shoes of fan favourite Yuri Lemeshev who, according to GBHQ, is off pursuing a solo project. The odd line-up change is almost inevitable in such a sprawling outfit, but given some dubious missteps in the recent past – such as participating in Coca Cola’s Euro 2012 advertising campaign, and collaborating on Madonna’s woeful Filth and Wisdom – some stability wouldn’t go amiss.
Sadly, tonight’s gig doesn’t offer much comfort to begin with. Sure, the band are as energetic as ever, and Hutz does his regular routine of anointing the first three rows with red wine, but there’s something off – the usually folksy ‘Last One Goes the Hope’ is plagued by self-indulgent noodling, while some odd, rocktastic flourishes (including a double bass-pedal beatdown) mean even the heavier tracks feel overcooked. This is the final night of the band’s European tour – maybe it’s just fatigue?
Thankfully, the band find their groove for the closing stretch – ‘Start Wearing Purple’ and ‘Alcohol’ are showstoppers even on Gogol Bordello off-days, while ‘Mishto’ remains a riotous stomper, and a special tribute to local venue Nice’n’Sleazy goes down a treat. When Hutz delivers a post-encore speech thanking everyone involved in putting the show together, the assembled band and crew members seem as happy to be involved as the exhausted but ecstatic audience. Maybe the familia is undestructable after all.