The film show fades from view, the first instalment of Haus of Gaga Presents: Who Shot Candy Warhol? left resonating inscrutably on our retinas, and the pod pops open. Its pieces peel away, like the parting segments of a child's music box, and there she stands, a retro-futurist ballerina in a Venetian mask. Slowly, Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta walks forward into the spotlight, expertly tilts her torso and strikes a pose, so that the shiny shards glued to her asymmetrical corset-dress catch the beam, turning her into a human mirror ball and sending hundreds of white lines around the auditorium. "How are you, my little monsters?"
You don't get this with Florence and the Machine. You don't get it with Rihanna for that matter, either. It was easy to be cynical about Lady Gaga when "Just Dance" topped the charts, to dismiss her as just another puppet with a producer and a stylist. But with every new single, video and show, it becomes clearer that we have on our hands a genuinely fascinating pop star.
Take the taboo-breaking video to the (excellent) current hit "Paparazzi", in which she plays a wheelchair-bound stalker, combining the creepiness of that Timberlake "Cry Me A River" clip with the symbolism of Hitchcock's Rear Window. Or the way she borrowed from cyberpunk and glam-freak fashion in "Poker Face", rather than high-street conformism (it's no coincidence that many reckon she looks like a tranny). In recent memory, only Xtina at her most X-treme has come anywhere close to this. And it's causing outward ripples: Brixton is full of girls who were typical chavette sheep six months ago, but tonight are rocking Bowie-esque glitter flashes on their eyes and peroxide-white hair. It's the first mainstream concert in ages where I've been applauded for looking unusual, not mocked.
Let's not lie: there are slumps, like the horrible heavy metal interludes, the ditsy pop-reggae of "Eh Eh" (which makes me think of Sister Sledge's appalling "Frankie"), and the over-long solo gospel section. But eight out of 10 songs are great, and I'll take that ratio.
Gaga is almost unique among her peers for considering influences like Bowie, Warhol and Hitchcock. When she reminisces about sticking rhinestones to a three-dollar blouse and dreaming of being a star, it's clear that she's a self-made phenomenon, and was willing to do anything to get where she is (even if it meant consorting with an oxygen thief like Perez Hilton).
The petite 23-year-old is not a natural pop babe. She's a funny-looking thing, a prominent proboscis the most notable feature of a face that's reminiscent of Frenchy from Grease, but she works what she's got: every costume change showcases her admittedly rather fine ass. It's sheer force of will: the Rocky Horror mantra "don't dream it, be it" brought to life. The lazy line on Lady G is to compare her to Madonna. She reminds me more of a young Prince: the same strutting confidence, the same sexual mania (feeling her crotch mid-song).
She shares Prince's dirty mind ("I wanna take a ride on your disco stick"), as well as his way with a heartfelt ballad, as she shows when she sits at her Perspex piano (yes, she can play it) for "Brown Eyes". And she shares his cocky body language. Literally. "Perhaps I have penis envy", she speculates, while contemplating the keytar which appears to be hewn from anthracite. "And envy is a dangerous thing."
"Dreadlock Holiday" by 10cc. "Howzat!" by Sherbet. Roy Harper's "When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease". That godawful single by The Bee Gees under their cartoon alias of The Bunburys. Rory Bremner's novelty hit, "N-n-n-nineteen Not Out". The concept album by obscure El Records band The Cavaliers. "Your Glove Alone Is, Knott, Enough" by the Manics. That – and feel free to correct me – is the sum total of cricket-themed pop music.
When Neil Hannon hit writers' block while devising the next Divine Comedy album, you can see why he settled on the summer sport as a topic to help loosen the limbs: there's precious little competition. Another way of looking at it, of course, is that – as he once sang of National Express coaches – "all human life is here".
The Duckworth-Lewis Method, Hannon's twee but likeable "pavilion pop" project, exploits the symbolic power of cricket. It's a whole Wisden-reading world of metaphor: getting your pads on, tossing the coin, hitting the sweet spot, and so forth. Rarely do they zoom in on specifics, like lobbying for Harmison to be drafted into the Ashes XI, although the verse "Always denied entry/By the English gentry/Now we're driving Bentleys/ Playing Twenty20" is as succinct a summary of the recent seismic changes in the game as you'll find.
The styles on show vary from Small Faces pop stomps to Flanders & Swann whimsical wordplay, of which the finest example is a tribute to the Aussie leg-spin legend Shane Warne, with the tongue-twisting chorus "It was jiggery-pokery/Trickery, jokery/How did he open me up?"
The cricketing establishment has responded favourably to this flattery, and before "Test Match Special", Hannon announces that the band have been invited on actual Test Match Special, "with Aggers and Blowers". They look the part: a bassist in a straw boater, Hannon in a striped blazer and pince-nez, and a portly co-singer with a WG Grace beard, but an attempted spot of batting practice with a safely soft ball shows a level of village green ineptitude that suggests they might want to think twice before turning pro.Reuse content