Lady Gaga, O2 Centre, London
Tim Minchin, Brighton Centre, Brighton

I'm completely gaga for Gaga...and believe it or not, she likes me too (and my hair), which is why I was treated to a special two-hour audience

It's close to midnight, and Lady Gaga is screaming into my face – my face alone, barely further away from me than you are from these words.

Her hair scooped up into a Bram Stoker's Dracula do, wearing bra, knickers, foot-high stiletto boots, a biker jacket and nothing else, the biggest pop star on the planet is serenading me at close range. It's possibly the most surreal moment of mi vida loca so far, and it's not without rivals.

Deep in the bowels of the 02, Gaga has requested the company of five journalists she feels have been supportive or shown an understanding of what she's about. We wait patiently, expecting a 30-second meet-and-greet. Instead, we get a money-can't-buy two-hour Audience With Gaga, including elongated bursts of ultra-energetic, point-blank performance.

When she isn't doing that, she's high-fiving me for my hairdo, getting dry-humped by her fishnet-legged friend Justin Tranter of support act Semi Precious Weapons, and writhing around on a black leather sofa at angles which prove that, while she may have balls of steel, they're only the figurative variety.

In calmer moments, she'll spill beans on Beyoncé and Britney, share a love of Leigh Bowery, read out a touching letter from a troubled British fan who sent her a bottle of Jameson's (we saw it off, it'd be rude not to), and speak articulately about David Bowie – a valid Gaga comparison in so many ways – and her theory that his every incarnation was the result of an on-going dialogue with his audience, a virtuous circle of projection and reflection. Then she'll leap up and start singing at us again, and I'm pinching myself and giggling.

After rolling around the world with The Monster Ball for the best part of a year (the tour will run until at least May), you'd forgive Gaga for being drained and tour-frazzled. Au contraire. She feeds, Bowie-like, off the renewable energy source of 20,000-strong audiences. It's made a monster of her, in the best possible way.

On the surface, the Ball itself hasn't altered much since the opening night in February: dancers who look like warriors directed by Baz Lurhmann, props including an armour-plated New York taxi, hypodermic syringe staircase and subway carriage-turned-sex club, instruments apparently hewn from a volcano, outfits such as "rubber see-through nun", "animatronic ice fairy" and "Red Queen meets vampire bat", and litres of fake blood.

The now familiar hits are present and coruscating: "Just Dance", its Ibiza friendly imperative subtly undercut by the bleakness of the lyric, "Love Game" incorporating the Manson mix, the two Ps ("Pokerface" and "Paparazzi") and, of course, the imperious lion-roar of "Bad Romance", surely the greatest pop single this century.

What's new is the amazing fire whirlwind coming out of the piano lid, and one new song to whet the appetite of anyone a little jaded by the sub-standard "Alejandro" and "Telephone". It's called "You And I", and it's a storming ballad to a lover who "tastes like whisky" when they kiss.

Far from being tour-lagged, she's on fiery form, ranting about her fanbase creating a space for individualism and liberation in a way which would be corny if it wasn't so damn true, reminiscing about being bullied for being uncool and having a big nose, insisting she has never, ever lip-synched in a concert or TV appearance ("Surprise! A pop show ... and the bitch can SING!"), playing the piano with her feet, and making the self-aware boast "I don't know if you've heard, but I've got a very large cock ...."

The best moment comes when she kills Santa Claus, beheading a fan-thrown figurine with teeth and heels, on behalf of the lonely at Christmas. "He was pregnant with chemicals not meant for children," she justifies, surveying the innards.

Tim Minchin – the other eyeliner-wearing, razor-dodging Dickensian-dressed comedian – is the leading Trojan horse of musical comedy, the art's ultimate entryist.

A barefoot count with backcombed ginger hair, the 35-year-old Aussie uses his cuteness – those big eyes, swivelling from side to side, as if scared by his own shadow – to sneak harsh and unpalatable truths past our defences.

Admittedly, in Brighton, officially Britain's Most Godless Town, those defences aren't set too high when it comes to Minchin's refreshingly sceptical perspective. Nevertheless, it's much easier to get away with characterising prayer as "telekinetically communicating with a zombie Jew and asking him to break the laws of physics" when you set it to a rinky-dink bossa-nova beat. Even so, his stunt involving a copy of the Koran has the room gasping.

Then there's "Cont", a cheerful Gilbert O'Sullivan-esque ditty listing bigoted grievances against assorted groups (Muslims on the Tube, breast-feeding mothers, the bi-curious) until it turns out he's lost half the lyrics, and the song's a perfectly reasonable and liberal number called "Context". Clever.

Backed by a full symphony orchestra, Minchin is a phenomenally fast-fingered jazz/blues pianist (and no mean singer), but the words are everything. A throwaway line like, "Your dog has a bigger carbon footprint than your four-wheel drive", reminds me of Richey Edwards in its ruthless candour.

He's at his most brutal when it comes to love, which he compares to a melanoma, and when taking apart the myth of pre-ordained soulmates using statistics, and such sciencey concepts as bell curves, false positives, P-values, confirmation bias and group-think.

You walk out of a Tim Minchin show convinced that everything you ever believed in is meaningless. And, counter-intuitively, that's an inspiring, life-affirming feeling.

Next Week:

Simon witnesses a special Scouse homecoming by Sir Paul McCartney

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment


film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
Arts and Entertainment
The audience aimed thousands of Apple’s product units at Taylor Swift throughout the show
musicReview: On stage her manner is natural, her command of space masterful
Arts and Entertainment
Channel 4 is reviving its Chris Evans-hosted Nineties hit TFI Friday

Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
A Glastonbury reveller hides under an umbrella at the festival last year

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Miles Morales is to replace Peter Parker as the new Spider-Man

Arts and Entertainment
The sequel to 1993's Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, has stormed into the global record books to score the highest worldwide opening weekend in history.

Arts and Entertainment
Odi (Will Tudor)
tvReview: Humans, episode 2
Arts and Entertainment
Can't cope with a Port-A-loo? We've got the solution for you

FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets

Arts and Entertainment
Some zookeepers have been braver than others in the #jurassiczoo trend

Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant

Arts and Entertainment
An original Miffy illustration
Arts and Entertainment
Man of mystery: Ian McKellen as an ageing Sherlock Holmes
film review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
    UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

    39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

    There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
    Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

    Computerised cooking is coming

    From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
    Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

    Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

    The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
    Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

    Education: Football Beyond Borders

    Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
    10 best barbecue books

    Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

    We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
    Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most