Katy Perry, Water Rats, London
Madonna, Wembley Stadium, London

As this year's controversialist sparked mayhem at a pub gig, across town the original material girl was sounding, dare we say it, old

As any progressive-minded linguist will agree, meaning follows usage, not the other way around.

For example, I'm old enough to remember even older people saying "Gay used to mean happy...", and always blithely dismissed their objections. But, for a number of years, American youth has been using "gay" to mean "lame" or "weak", drawing a direct connection between those qualities and homosexuality. I'm standing in the way of this tide with a big "No Pasaran" placard, blocking the path of its latest instigator, Katy Perry.

Perry is a 23-year-old from California whose parents were pastors, and whose first album at the age of 16 was a Christian gospel record. It's worth holding this in mind when pondering the intentions behind her breakthrough song, "UR So Gay". The clumsy chorus goes "You're so gay and you don't even like boys", so it isn't directly an attack on homosexuality – but it is certainly a rancid piece of work, reinforcing a conservative ideal of masculinity with its attack on an indie/emo guy whose sins include not eating meat, being pale and skinny, listening to Mozart and reading Hemingway and, lord help us, wearing make-up.

Perry is in the UK to honour a tiny pub gig that was presumably booked before she went mega. It's surely the first time a tour bus this big has been parked on Gray's Inn Road, and the local chav kids have gathered outside the Water Rats to peer at the live feed on the television monitor inside.

She works a crowd that's 50 per cent fan club, 50 per cent cynical hacks like me, conducting the overhead handclaps. Capitol have wheeled out the big guns to hone the commercial viability of Perry's sound, which mainly consists of mainstream pop-rock in a Pink meets Kelly Clarkson meets the Go-Go's vein.

Her worldwide smash hit "I Kissed a Girl" is the inevitable finale. One doesn't know whether to be insulted by the idea that girl-on-girl action is still considered shocking, or irritated by the spectacle of faux-lez girls who are just, to borrow a phrase from Culture Club, kissing to be clever. On the other hand, Perry is addressing a culture (Middle America) whose idea of a woman gone a little wild is Shania Twain wearing men's shirts, so even baby-steps have to be applauded.

It's the cause for mild mayhem tonight, and the TV camera is ripped from the ceiling midway through, meaning that the chavs' free show is over. They aren't missing much. Ultimately, Katy Perry is Sarah Silverman with a guitar around her neck: a purported controversialist who, at the end of the day, is merely doing the dirty work of the Right.

Over at Wembley, another controversialist – returning to the scene of her cone-breasted prime – is cashing in. A nifty hydraulic video screen spells out C-A-N-D-Y against a backdrop of swirling sweets, a steel staircase is wheeled forward, and at the top, sprawled on a high-backed throne with one leg slung over the chair-arm, is Madonna.

Now, there was a time when having Madonna's crotch thrust in your face was many a young man's fantasy. In 2008, however, the spectacle has gone beyond Mrs Robinson and is nudging towards the wrongness level of the granny in Little Britain who gets snogged by David Walliams. But whatever your opinion of Madonna as a human being, as a pop star respect is due. Even if it's largely for things she did when Reagan was still in power.

The show is expensive enough. She rides a vintage white Rolls-Royce on to a catwalk, flanked by dancers dressed as anything from boxers to Da Vinci Code monks. Overhead, a cylindrical video screen is used to show Kanye West's duet parts, footage of starving peasants in Rajasthan, and a film of Madonna trapped inside a lift.

But money can't buy you charm. If there's one thing you'd expect Madonna to have learned after 25 years in showbusiness it's how to rouse an audience, but aside from feeble appeals like, "Alright London, are you ready to rock the house with DJ Eric Jao?", she barely bothers. Clearly, the dazzling wow-it's-Madonna factor is supposed to be enough.

Much of the show involves showing off her gym-hardened physique, as she Cossack-dances, humps the floor, and flails her hair around like a Pan's Person. There's a boxing ring for "Die Another Day" and skipping ropes for "Into the Groove". All of which renders her already-hackneyed 20th-century clichés of erotica (leather, lace, boots, canes) even less attractive.

Down on Bobby Moore Way, drunken women with northern accents, all of them £70 lighter, trickle towards the Tube, singing the unperformed "Material Girl". They didn't get what they want. Somewhere inside the stadium, the Material Girl herself, several thousand £70s heavier, rests her biceps. She, as always, gets what she wants.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent