Gogol Bordello, The Rumjacks @ The Hi-Fi, Brisbane (02/04/2010)

Fronted by a one-time Soviet refugee and hailed as “the best band in the world” by Tom Morello, Gogol Bordello arrive in Brisbane, having kicked off their world tour in Australia.

Check out photos of the show here.

Dapper Sydney punks The Rumjacks open to a rather-full, and very enthusiastic Hi-Fi crowd. The Jolly Executioner sets in with military drums and gruff vocals. Top-hats, button-up shirts and vests aren’t what you’d normally see a punk band wearing, but the crowd don’t exactly have any sort of dress code tonight either! The band manage to pull in sounds from ska to folk-punk, channelling The Clash as they go. Frontman Frankie McLaughlin pulls out a tin-whistle when he’s not singing like an Irish pirate . Whiskey You’re The Devil riles up the crowd – who are eager to remember the band’s name. Many a punter writes rumjacks on the back of their hand after the short set ends.

For those of you unfamiliar with Gogol Bordello, they’re a New York- based genre-meddling troupe of multicultural misfits led by Ukrainian native Eugene Hütz.

The audience has been staring at a giant fist sling-shotting a star at them all night – the backdrop for a revolutionary musical raucous. A huge cheer greets the band, and a wicked bass-line gets things going, before Hütz and his moustache bound on stage. Armed with his guitar he gets straight into Ultimate – the crowd singing along “there were never any good old days, they are today, they are tomorrow!”

The self-professed gypsy punks are a sight to take in – an Asian dancer, a Russian accordionist, an Ecuadorian rapper, a Russian violinist, an Ethiopian bassist and more. Each musician is vying for our attention – everyone on stage is a personality, and none of them want to just blend in.

The crowd is already going mad by second song Break The Spell – that happens to be a gypsy-rock-rap with some bongo-drums thrown in for good measure and some off-beat dance-moves to entertain us all. We’re taken through what can only be described as drum and bass-led disco folk, dub, and straight-up gypsy tunes by this mic-swapping riot-inciting collective.

Tribal Connection has a ska flavour, and sees Hütz pull off his shirt to reveal the sling-shot he’s wearing around his neck. Everyone is jumping about the stage or in the crowd. Gogol Bordello feature a swag of languages as well as characters, and this song sees Pedro Erazo – the Ecuadorian rapper – slot in a little Spanish. Many of the songs feature Ukrainian and Romani, the language of Gypsies. They also tend to a feature a lot of “lalala”-ing – something everyone can understand.

Mishto is introduced by the violin and accordion, before the mohawked drummer comes in – wearing gloves and wielding his sticks like meat-cleavers. The crowd go absolutely wild, and the entire venue is dancing and singing. “This is my stupid dance” is quite an apt lyric.

We’re next taken into a Latino rhythm revolution. With Erazo donning a Mexican wrestling mask , and the whole group coming to the very front of the stage – it’s a rather imposing sight. Good old rock and roll gets a nod before the party of a night seems to slow down for Through The Roof ‘n’ Underground. Hütz strums his acoustic guitar, as the crowd claps and sings along.

“We’ve tried to land in Australia for seven years,” he explains, “and always ended up in Japan or Brazil – we finally landed right!”.

An over-enthusiastic fan jumps on stage before diving right off again to avoid security. The anthemic Start Wearing Purple gets everyone jumping – literally. It leads straight into a very traditionally gypsy-sounding number. The band take pains to shake hands with the first few rows, before leaving us to wonder whether they’ll grace us with an encore.

We don’t have to wait long before Hütz comes back alone, picks up his guitar, and treats us to a bit of classical Flamenco as an introduction to Alcohol. The Russians later accompany him on violin and accordion.

The entire band is present, some with costume changes, for the rest of the encore. Undestructable is a marvelously epic, super-anthem that turns the place into a hedonistic celebration. Cymbals are being crashed, a marching bass drum, metal guitar riffs, and a rapper gone overboard. “It’s so nice to play with people like you!” says Hütz after almost two hours of music, “we’re your new friends Gogol Bordello!” he announces – overjoyed and exasperated.