Friday, July 20, 2007

Gogol Bordello

There's a difference between pandemonium and chaos, and Gogol Bordello walked that fine line to perfection at the 9:30 club Wednesday night. The self-proclaimed Gypsy punks lived up to their reputation as one of the best live acts around with a fantastic, frenzied performance that never got out of control thanks to expert handling by the group's frontman, pop-star-on-the-rise Eugene Hutz.

You may not recognize Hutz's name right now, but that's likely to change. The Ukrainian-born New Yorker took a cinematic star turn in 2005's "Everything Is Illuminated," recently shared the stage with Madonna at Live Earth and is the star of the Material Girl's just-wrapped directorial debut. Plus, he has the best handlebar moustache since baseball's Rollie Fingers.

But Gogol Bordello, with its joyous, Balkan-flavored concoction of punk, klezmer, dub and folk, remains his primary meal ticket, and with good reason. Whether he was bashing away at his acoustic guitar or cavorting around the stage among up to eight other performers, he was the perfect ringleader for this truly one-of-a-kind circus. It was hard to understand much of what he said, as much because of his thick accent as the righteous roar created by the band, but the sold-out crowd treated every word as gospel.

The audience matched Hutz's enthusiasm, and then some. You wouldn't think that a band with songs built largely around fiddle and accordion would lead a mosh-pit renaissance, but that is indeed the case. Unlike nu-metal pits, though, a Bordello pit isn't violent. When songs such as "Start Wearing Purple" and "Wonderlust King" reached their chant-along choruses, people were leaping without abandon, and if they happened to bump into someone else, so be it.

-- David Malitz

Jason Isbell

Jason Isbell's split earlier this year from the Drive-By Truckers, the reigning Southern rock kings whose following is as loyal as any messiah's, took fans and, judging by comments Isbell made on his MySpace page at the time, even him by surprise.

But the fabulously talented singer and guitarist seems ready to let lie whatever led to his departure. At the Rock & Roll Hotel on Wednesday, backed by his new outfit, the 400 Unit, Isbell introduced "The Assassin" as a song "written by my friend [and founding Trucker] Patterson Hood," and urged the audience to go see his former mates' 9:30 club show tonight.

Yet not everybody is ready for Isbell to be his own man. Isbell's set in no way avoided his past life: The crowd outsung him on Truckers standbys "Goddamn Lonely Love" and "Outfit," and Isbell pogoed center stage during the rebel yell "Never Gonna Change." But Isbell now has a solo record ("Sirens of the Ditch") to promote and a career to worry about, and he eventually snapped at all the folks shouting only for the old stuff whenever he'd break to tune his guitar or to swig from a big Jack Daniel's bottle.

"Do you people sit in church and yell, 'Corinthians! I wanna hear Corinthians, dammit!'?" Isbell semi-sneered.

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