Fireworks sprayed the skies above downtown Kansas City on Friday night, but none of them matched the pyrotechnics detonated inside Crossroads KC, where Gogol Bordello was holding court.
For more than 90 minutes, the polyglottal Gypsy/punk/folk band from New York by way of Ukraine and points beyond whipped a crowd of about 1,000 into a joyous state, reaffirming its status as one of the liveliest live bands in the world.
The show opened with its only moment of tranquility: lead man Eugene Hütz, solo, strumming an acoustic guitar and singing “Illumination.” Turns out he was lighting a fuse. Soon, the remainder of his band joined in, setting the pace for what would follow.
Hütz is an evangelical dervish, always in motion, cajoling the crowd to submit to his unbridled enthusiasm. And it did, all night. He is generous with the spotlight, giving his mates room to solo and in some cases sing lead. Their sound mixes punk, ska and several flavors of European folk plus occasional gusts of Latin music, arranged in accordion, violin, guitar. Its charms are irresistible. Even when the lyrics address darker themes, the music is uplifting, ecstatic.
The set list included “My Gypsy Auto Pilot,” from “Pura Vida Conspiracy,” the band’s latest album, now 2 years old. But it also included the incendiary “Start Wearing Purple,” from “Voi-La Intruder,” Gogol Bordello’s debut album, released in 1999. On that one, the crowd was a roiling sea of joy.
Other highlights: “My Companjera,” which rides a guitar riff with a Dick Dale vibe; “Trans-Continental Hustle,” in which the crowd joined in the chorus with gusto; and “Immigraniada (We Comin’ Rougher),” a street-punk anthem with a Flogging Molly vibe; “Wonderlust King,” which aroused a Russian wedding vibe; and “Pala Tute,” a whirlwind of accordion, fiddle, percussion and gang vocals.
After a three-song encore, the band took its bows to a recording of Joe Strummer and Johnny Cash’s version of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song.” The crowd, which Hütz referred to as “the choir,” joined in on that one, too — a song about freedom. It was an appropriate epilogue to a show that revealed emphatically the liberative powers of music.
Making Movies: The four-piece Latin rock band from Kansas City, joined by violinist Coleen Dieker, was a late replacement for the scheduled openers. It filled in admirably. Playing before a display of the flags of Panama, Mexico and the United States, they delivered the usual: an invigorating set of songs that draw equally from traditional Latin music and various strains of rock, all filled with energy and loaded with groove. Percussionist Juan-Carlos Chaurand also showed off his footwork, performing a folkloric dance.
Gogol Bordello set list
Illumination; Ultimate; Not a Crime; My Gypsy Auto Pilot; The Other Side of Rainbow; My Companerja; Dig Deep Enough; Last One Goes the Hope; Trans-Continental Hustle; Immigraniada (We Comin’ Rougher); Start Wearing Purple; Wonderlust King; Pala Tute