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As bombs continue to pummel Ukraine, musicians gathered in New York Thursday night to protest Russia’s war against the nation and raise funds for its defense. The Benefit for Ukraine at New York’s City Winery assembled a lineup of mostly local rock legends who “stand with Ukraine in the battle for its democracy and freedom.”

The show was put together by headliner Gogol Bordello, New York’s beloved Slavic punk rock band, fronted by charismatic singer/guitarist Eugene Hütz. The benefit was also livestreamed.

It’s personal for Hütz, who was born in Boyaka, a town southwest of Kyiv, to a Russian father and half-Ukrainian/half-Roma mother. They emigrated to the U.S. in 1992 after traveling around Europe like gypsies, and he founded the band in 1999.

Prior to the concert, in a press statement, Hütz called Russia “Ukraine’s criminally insane neighbor” and a “psychotic totalitarian nation,” adding: “Please help us to win this battle; help us to end this catastrophe immediately and bring the intruder to justice.”

After an acoustic version of Gogol Bordello opened the show, Patti Smith, wearing a red knitted hat, provided the evening’s first highlight as she belted out 1988’s “People Have the Power.” On 2004’s “Peaceable Kingdom,” Smith sang, “Maybe one day we’ll be strong enough to build it back again / Build the peaceable kingdom back again.” Her band included Tony Shanahan on bass and keyboards and daughter Jessie Paris Smith. She then relayed a message of support from Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon and announced their donation of $50,000 to Doctors Without Borders.

Each performer except for the headliner got about 10 minutes of stage time for a couple of songs, with full bands not required. While Lady Lamb performed a couple of songs (including “Deep Love”) on her own, Suzanne Vega was joined by guitarist Gerry Leonard (who also played with Smith) as she dedicated her set to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. Both songs from her 1992 album “99.9F° – “Rocket in My Pocket (Song of David)” and “Song of Sand” – were obvious choices for the occasion, she noted.

A hard-rocking appearance by Jesse Malin included a cover of the Pogues’ “If I Should Fall From Grace with God,” joined by Hütz (who also sat in on Smith’s performance). Stephin Merritt provided some comic relief with a quirky duet featuring him on ukulele and singer Claudia Gonson. Three of his brief songs were pulled from the catalog of his band the Magnetic Fields, including 2010’s “You Must Be Out of Your Mind” and 2020’s “The Day the Politicians Died.”

O.A.R. singer-guitarist Marc Roberge performed two of his band’s songs, 2008’s “The War Song” and 2014s “Peace,” shouting out on the latter: “I want peace, I want it all night.” Teaming up with guitarist Aaron Dugan, Matisyahu beat-boxed a couple of reggae-style numbers, even adding a Hebrew prayer during “Indestructible.”

The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn was equally as passionate, asking the crowd to read a Spin magazine article, “From Rock Clubs to the Resistance,” about how the war is affecting musicians in Ukraine. After 2004’s “Certain Songs,” he dusted off Nick Lowe’s often-covered “(What’s So Funny About) Peace, Love and Understanding” with the help of saxophonist Peter Hess, the night’s second major highlight.

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Gogol Bordello sings for Ukraine benefit at City Winery NYC Daniel Efram

Gogol Bordello reappeared, this time in all of its colorful and communal glory with a full-band lineup that included backup singers, fiddle and accordion as well as guitars, bass and drums. Hütz pushed the pace with his infectious energy, hopping atop chairs in the audience to get closer to the crowd. During one song a woman on stage pounded a large bass drum. It was so much fun attendees could almost forget the tragedy that’s happening 4,600 miles and seven time zones away.

“We’re stepping up at the right moment to raise money and awareness,” Hütz declared from the stage as the show wound down. “Less is more and more is what we need now. We need all the help we can get.”