Into the Pit: 055: Gogol Bordello – Live at the Leadmill Sheffield – 18-December 2007

I’m still not sure how much I like the Leadmill as a gig venue. While the layout is great – a wide stage, and a good sound system that allows for just about everyone to see the gig – it never feels quite right. So it was a good thing that in the main, the bands were able to blow any thoughts of this away.

Gogol Bordello
La Phaze
Live @ Leadmill, Sheffield
18 December 2007

The support act were a very strange French punk act called La Phaze. Three very excitable punks, who added electronic effects, drum’n’bass, reggae, and appear to have a good knowledge of their punk history, with nods to various other songs and movements throughout the set. While the audience reaction appeared to be a little standoff-ish to start with, as the place filled up during the set they won more and more fans over. Eugene Hütz from the headliners then joined the band for a cover of GB’s Immigrant Punk at the end, which finally seemed to win everyone over, oddly enough…

Gogol Bordello themselves were simply mental. As the apparently legendary DJ Scratchy‘s set was finishing, the band were already on stage and raring to go, and so as they started to wind-up Ultimate it added to the already chaotic feel of the night. As an opener, though, it felt somewhat subdued: however the doors were nearly blown clean off the venue by Not A Crime that followed it. In some respects it reminds me of The Levellers if they had spent a week down the pub with all their mates singing along, and otherwise the nonsensical lyrics (what the hell isn’t a crime, guys?) make it a whole barrelload of fun.

The live reputation that this band have gained of late is well-deserved – they are full of energy, with most of the songs being high-energy punk-folk singalongs, with most of the band switching positions all over the stage. Amid all the chaotic scenes, they are also clearly a highly-talented bunch of musicians – and I’m not sure I’ve seen a rock band with the accordion and violin players pushed to the centre of the stage before! Add to that the two dancing girls, who appeared at points with additional random percussion instruments, and members of the support band appearing a number of times also, and it was hard to know what to watch!

Of course, they wouldn’t be such a damned good live band without a bunch of fantastic songs, either: and Eugene Hütz’s somewhat odd view of the world really helps. Like his ideas on religion on Supertheory of Supereverything, and the itchy feet of Wanderlust King (a song that works way better live than on record), and additionally the bloody hilarious American Wedding (“Where is the vodka, where’s the marinated herring? Where is the supply that gonna last three days?“)…

The main set was concluded with an extended, teasing intro to Start Wearing Purple (with Eugene doing some “magic tricks” that would be shamed by a bad street performer – but maybe that’s the point), before the curious waltz of the track finally exploded into life (the song has already been in my head for days, and I don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon), before finishing with an extended Think Locally, Fuck Globally, which split the crowd into “north Sheffield” and “south Sheffield” in wonderfully shambolic fashion.

Roars for an encore were ringing through the venue even before they left the stage, and it wasn’t long before they obliged – with a song that seemed curiously appropriate, Alcohol. It started with just Eugene, before the band gradually re-appeared on stage and joined it the fun, along with the members of La Phaze, DJ Scratchy and just about anyone else possible, all swigging all kinds of drinks. And in a nice touch, handing out a couple of crates-worth of bottled beer out to the front rows!

The rest of the encore was stretched out for nearly half-an-hour, to the point of the house lights being switched on, as a clear notice to the band to get the hell off the stage! They eventually left, after about three more flourishes, to rapturous applause. And too right, too: if not the best gig of the year, it was most certainly the most fun. This is what gigs should be about: not everything needs to be deadly serious. And when the band are clearly loving it as much as the crowd, it makes it all the better…

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