Manchester Academy is perhaps one of the bigger venues Gogol Bordello have played in the UK. The “Seekers and Finders Tour” has definitely been a step up for the band, it would seem, and for an act renowned for its frenetic performances and close interaction with its audience, it was interesting to see how an impressive two hour headline spot from them would react with what has, in recent years, become such an enormous production.
As eccentric as ever, the lights dimmed to a Hungarian folk dance playing over the speakers, with Sergey Ryabtsev (violin) and Pasha Newmerzhitsky (accordion) taking the stage to perform the opening bars of “Did It All”, before the rhythm section of the band quickly shifted the melody into a medly with “Break Into Your Higher Self”. From this moment, stage and crowd alike burst into life; with over 2,000 people enthusiastically joining in a “hey hey hey hey” hook. Less than a minute through Gogol Bordello’s performance, the crowd were already loving it; even before frontman Eugene Hütz suddenly jumped onto the stage sporting one of his unique custom-made jackets and a neon pink pilotka.
The energy did not dip for a moment as Gogol Bordello finished their opening medly, powering through “Not A Crime” enthusiastically before launching into “Wonderlust King” – though without the extended chorus at the beginning that really added to their show in Leeds earlier this year. Several other fan favourites swiftly followed, with occasional remarks from Hütz asking how the crowd was and giving us directions on how to dance, but few other speeches were made throughout the first part of the set unfortunately. This was made up for in the latter half though, with the crowd responding well to Pedro Erazo’s spiel about “love, peace, and unity” which served as introduction to the band’s energetically pro-immigration and pro-tolerance punk classic, “Immigraniada”.
You would have thought that the audience would lose interest slightly with the more mellow songs, especially with “Alcohol” and the latest single, “Walking on Burning Coal”, being played back to back, but if there was any lapse at all in the atmosphere it was barely noticeable. One particular highlight shortly after this was also the extended introduction to “We Rise Again”, a song that the band seldom seem to play live these days, which featured a sudden roar of joy from the audience as the support act, Lucky Chops, returned again to the stage to provide some fantastic brass accompaniment throughout “Rebellious Love” (another song that is rarely played live), “Transcontinental Hustle”, “Mishto”, and “Think Locally”.
Although the band were touring their new album, it is always great when an act does not forget old live favourites, and even take the time to reintroduce some older songs that have not been played for years into the set, as Gogol Bordello certainly did here. Another thing that made it really special was Hütz’s announcement that they were playing an older song for the first time ever on this tour, which turned out to be “Hieroglyph” from 2013’s “Pura Vida Conspiracy”.
Characteristically of Gogol Bordello, the show ended on the most energetic of notes. The main set finished with one of their huge live stapes, a medley of “Undestructable” with the tune section of “Baro Foro”, featuring Ashley Tobias bringing out a huge drum, which was summarily taken by Hütz and ridden through the front of the crowd. “Start Wearing Purple” and “Sally” then finished the setlist off, as in previous shows of this tour, before Hütz, clearly on a huge high from the energy and atmosphere exhibited by band and crowd alike, seemed to call something out to the rest of the band before they launched straight into “I Would Never Wanna Be Young Again” – out of apparent spontaneity, as it was not on the written setlist being handed out to crowd members afterwards.
Finally, an extended encore finishing with an enthusiastic rendition of “Pala Tute” was performed, proving once again, as did the whole show, why Gogol Bordello are one of the world’s greatest live acts. The energy and musicianship from the whole band was just that little bit above what even some of the best live bands on the circuit exhibit but there just seemed to be something extra in the air with this show that made it even better than on previous occasions. They are on top form right now, and should definitely not be missed.