Gogol Bordello's Ukrainian Gypsy lead singer, Eugene Hutz, calls his band "an orchestra of fucking immigrants, jamming in A minor". Hutz has the kind of tragi-comic background most western bands can only make up. Born in Kiev in 1972, he was evacuated to the western Ukraine following the Chernobyl catastrophe. He spent his teens soaking up the freakish cacophonies of Einstürzende Neubauten and the Birthday Party, only available on the black market, then decided he'd had enough of the Soviet Union and slowly worked his way across Europe and finally to New York.
No doubt his bandmates have equally vivid CVs, hailing as they do from Israel, Moscow, the island of Sakhalin and California. At any rate, their startling musical fusion of punk, polka, folk, rock, sleaze and disease has made them the underground darlings of the Big Apple, while their tumbling momentum looks set to crash through the defences of an ill-prepared world. Their album Multi Kontra Culti Vs Irony - the title reflects Hutz's loathing of the weary affectations of irony, which he reckons have corroded the power of art - tends to exert a numbing effect with its relentless, often interchangeable beats. However, the live Gogol Bordello experience is a five-dimensional performance-art deluge.
Their sound is instantly arresting, with its wailing, squawking, honking blitz of accordion, saxophone and violin. The remorseless rhythms pummel the crowd like a hail of boots and fists. Two female dancers appear as white-faced Russian dolls, paramilitary bandswomen or screaming marionettes, while Hutz hangs from the rafters, roaring and raging, wearing a bushy Cossack moustache and a loincloth jingling with medallions. Most of the time it is impossible to understand anything he sings, but occasional episodes of lucidity throw up phrases such as "dogs were barking" or "start wearing purple". When he talks, he sounds like Robbie Coltrane doing a James Bond villain. If they have a manifesto, maybe it is what's written on the banners held up by the women: "Think local, fuck global."