From watching part of the sound check before my interview with frontman Eugene Hütz earlier in the afternoon, I could tell that Gogol Bordello’s  Leeds show was going to be a good one. The Seekers and Finders Tour sees the band premiering new songs from their upcoming album of the same name; so as a result I was expecting a fairly standard setlist of the same usual live hits. However, that is not to say that it was not incredibly enjoyable.
From the moment I walked through the door I found myself wondering how close they were to selling out, because even with an advertised twenty minute waiting time for the bar the auditorium was so completely packed that it was a huge struggle down the side wall to get to anywhere with a decent view. I arrived just in time though, as after a few minutes of waiting the lights dimmed and the crowd erupted into a surprising level of applause as the band took the stage and immediately launched into “Break Into Your Higher Self”. For a new song from an upcoming album that barely anyone in the room had heard before, the audience reaction was incredible: jumping and clapping the entire way through it as they did the entire rest of the set. During both this song and “Not A Crime” though Alfredo Ortiz (drums) and Boris Pelekh (electric guitar) were very high, so much that they drowned out Hütz (vocals), Sergey Ryabtsev (violin), and Pasha Newmer (accordion) completely. Thankfully, this was fixed by the time they began “Wonderlust King”, with an extended slow introduction that had the entire crowd singing along.
Not that Hütz’s vocals are so impressive that they need to be heard, though despite the awareness that he is not perhaps the most angelic of singers, his energetic live performance is a force to be reckoned with. By the fifth song in the set (“My Companjera”), Hütz was already shirtless; dancing across the stage with backing vocalists Elizabeth Sun and Vanessa Walters before taking position at the front of the stage splayed horizontally over the monitors to sing a full-band rendition of the slower “Alcohol”, which seemed a lot better performed this way in the middle of the set than as an encore, like they used to play it. The energy displayed by the rest of the band could give Hütz a run for his money though, with Thomas Gobena (bass) and Pasha Newmer darting across the stage at every opportunity, and the continual jumping of Pelekh and Ryabtsev; the latter of which notably kept knocking over the microphone stands into the audience – though it must be a struggle being so energetic with eight other people on such a small stage!
By the middle of the set, it was time for MC Pedro Erazo to take centre stage for a passionate delivery of “Immigraniada” that had the entire crowd holding their fists up in solidarity. Despite Hütz’s earlier comments about songs with deliberate political messages in our interview, the message behind this protest song rings clearly across the audience. After such an angry statement, it was great to see the whole auditorium kick back for a frenzied “Mishto”, which included a quick mashup with Manu Chao’s hit “Mala Vida”, Newmer and Hütz downing most of a bottle of red wine to celebrate the former’s birthday, before throwing the remainder into the crowd, and Ryabtsev delivering a violin solo outro in the audience itself, before leaping back onto the stage and knocking over yet another microphone stand in the process. Those who have seen the band before were expecting the solo to lead into “Start Wearing Purple”, but the band defied our expectations and threw the title track of the new album, “Seekers and Finders”, into the mix first; with Erazo once again taking to the front of the stage and encouraging the entire crowd of several hundred people to jump up and down in unison and, thankfully, also in time.
A sped up rendition of “Undestructable” welcomed with open dancing and, err, moshing from the crowd, which by now felt like the eclectic mix of folkies and rockers that only Gogol Bordello could bring together. The extended mashup with “Baro Foro” was also highly entertaining with Walters and Sun bringing out the comically large circus drums, as was Hütz’s and Walters’ joking rendition of “I Want Candy” before launching into “Pala Tute” – which admittedly did become slightly excessive with several guitar solos from Pelekh, though still great fun to dance to. The combination of “Sally” and “Sacred Darling” closed off the main set well, despite the latter being relatively unknown to all but the most dedicated followers of the band.
Opening up the encore with a new song is always a risky move for a band, though the whole show had been so entertaining so far that they managed to pull it off well before powering through a sped-up “Ultimate” and closing with “Think Locally, Fuck Globally” – complete with a fire bucket solo from Hütz and the girls. The latter here felt like a slightly strange one to end the show with, but demonstrated clearly that Gogol Bordello, despite being almost twenty years into their career, are still a band that know how to party. If it wasn’t for the drums and electric guitar drowning the violin and accordion throughout a lot of the show, it would easily be ten out of ten. Still though, the Gogol Bordello live experience is not something that you want to miss, and I highly recommend keeping an eye on their eclectic tour schedule for a date you can attend.