by Jeff Niesel
In a recent interview in which he talked about the “wildness” of Gogol Bordello’s live shows, singer Eugene Hutz explained that his approach to performing live isn’t just about running around stage like some kind of animal that had just been let loose from captivity. “The other aspect is actual craft,” he explained. “That craft is what keeps the attention and feeds people in other ways. No energy can sustain attention if it’s not guided.” That craft was on full display last night at House of Blues where Hutz and his six-piece band put on a high-energy show that started strong and didn’t let up for two hours. Sure, the band played with furious punk rock energy (think Iggy and the Stooges) but the group also alternated between electric and acoustic instrumentation and showed just how much Hutz has evolved as a singer and songwriter.
Hutz started the show off by playing “Illumination,” a song from 2005’s Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike that starts with a bit of acoustic guitar. But as his band mates joined Hutz, other instruments such as drums, accordion, bass and violin kicked in. And from that moment, it was on. By the middle of the set, the wiry Hutz would strip off his shirt and be drenched in sweat. He had some help in hyping the audience as a female backing singer would join him for “We Rise Again,” a song that featured terrific call and response vocals. His percussionist would also often stand at the front of the stage, encouraging audience members to sing along to tunes such as “Start Wearing Purple,” an accordion-driven track that made use of traditional gypsy music.
When Hutz arrived back on stage for the encore, he related a story about recently discovering that one of his guitars is on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. “I thought I lost that guitar on the sidewalk in San Diego,” he laughed. “It’s good to see it there.” The encore included semi-acoustic tracks such as “Alcohol,” a woozy love song of sorts that sounded like a gypsy take on Tom Waits as Hutz sneered and snorted lines such as “I miss you so/every time we break up” while hoisting a bottle of red wine in the air. And at the set’s end, he and his crew took a well-deserved bow to show that the theatrical performance had come to an end.