Gogol Bordello, Astoria, London <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

The stage is swirling with light; in front of the guitar, bass and drums a violin and accordion are literally howling. Dancers Pamela Jintana Racine and Elizabeth Sun are on the front-of-stage monitors, Sun crashing a pair of cymbals and Racine hammering a bass drum. Meanwhile, the focus of all this fury is in the audience, surfing on a sea of hands.

He's called Eugene Hutz and his group, Gogol Bordello, has sold out tonight, despite the venue being upgraded from the Mean Fiddler to the larger Astoria. A lot of people have got to know about them very fast, and they like what they hear.

And there's a lot to like: there's an enormous variety of ingredients here, starting with Roma and eastern European music from Hutz's native Ukraine and taking in punk, ska, reggae, latin and more. It's very polished; despite all the energy and movement everyone on stage always seems to know exactly where they should be. It's very theatrical, too; in fact, when Sun and Racine pose at the front with their instruments it resembles a crazed production of Mother Courage.

They start with "Immigrant Punk", a jerky, stuttering manifesto with a lyrical nod to The Clash's "Straight To Hell", Hutz barking the words as he scrubs at an acoustic guitar. Then they launch into songs mostly from current album Gypsy Punks. An uncharacteristically quiet accordion begins tonight's version of the single "Start Wearing Purple", but when the rest of the group kicks in the mosh pit is one solid pogo and Hutz jumps out again on to the hands.

When he's back on stage the show continues with the punk chorale of "Mussolini vs Stalin", then a samba with "60 Revolutions". The highlight, though, is definitely "Underdog World Strike", a pounding Slavic reggae, kind of an east European take on The Clash's "Armagideon Time". Guitar, bass and drums lay down the rhythm; violin and accordion swirl around them. Drum and cymbals are at the front again and Hutz throws himself around like a thin, angular rag doll.

Hutz has been described, not particularly accurately, as the Ukrainian Iggy Pop. Like Pop, though, he uses the stage to perform rather than just somewhere to stand while he's singing. A Gogol Bordello show is a spectacle of light, movement and music; the ideas driving it are clear and coherent. Hutz has defined the music he wants to make and how he wants to make it. In his own words, "cultural revolution just began"!

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