Gogol Bordello thrills at Denver's Ogden Theatre - Reverb

Live review: Gogol Bordello @ the Ogden Theatre

Is Gogol Bordello music or theater? Both, really, but privileging one discounts the other. Photos by Michael McGrath, heyreverb.com.

Is Gogol Bordello music or theater? Both, really, but privileging one discounts the other. Photos by Michael McGrath, heyreverb.com.

The sight of kids trying to mosh to an accordion player feels right somehow, even if you don’t know exactly why. It’s one of many spectacles you’ll likely encounter at a Gogol Bordello show.

But to call the band’s live show “theater” diminishes the force of its music, rooted as it is in the traditions of the Roma people — and the Tejano, and frevo players of Brazil, the rhythms of Eastern Europe, the tarantella of southern Italy, the cumbia of Colombia — the list goes on. It’s the folk music of the world, and that wide appeal was apparent at the Ogden Theatre Thursday night.

The band, whose members hail from Ethiopia to Ecuador, had the capacity crowd pumping fists and singing in unison at the onset of the opening song, “Ultimate,” from 2007’s “Super Taranta!” Frontman Eugene Hutz’ collaborative spirit and broad understanding of world music traditions allows the considerable talents of his band to shine on stage.

Violinist Sergey Ryabtsev and accordionist Yuri Lemeshev carried most of the songs and peppered them with solos stretching the melodies to their limits. Bassist Thomas Gobena anchored the chaos to the beat, while MC and percussionist Pedro Erazo seemed to be everywhere on stage at once, whether playing congas or samba drums, taking lead or backup vocals, weaving immigrant tales to the crowd or just furiously beatboxing. If anyone possesses more energy than Hutz, it’s Erazo.

The strumming guitar and accordion quiverings of “Pala Tute” spurred on the crowd late in the set. The song is somewhat of an anthem for the band. To honor his Roma heritage, Hutz wrote the song in the tradition of a gypsy standard, and apparently it is now being performed in gypsy communities around the world. The hopeful ballad “Sun Is on My Side” gave the audience a chance to catch its breath in the encore before Hutz broke into a rousing reprise of “Break the Spell.”

For some, a Gogol Bordello concert might evoke a campfire celebration in a far-flung Roma community. Yet, at its heart, it’s music for all kinds of folks.

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Denver-based writer Sam DeLeo is a published poet, has seen two of his plays produced and is currently finishing his novel, “As We Used To Sing.”

Michael McGrath is a Denver area photographer. His work is available at Twist and Shout Records. Visit his website.

  • ste

    wish we were there