Live: Butler's House. Hercules and Love Affair, Priceless London Wonderground.

Andy Butler occupies a niche so unique within contemporary pop culture that it may accommodate only one. Which is rather fortunate given that on tonight of all nights, despite enthralling alongside a cast of tens he stakes his claim not only as something of an idiosyncratic lone ranger, but also as cult house figurehead. He is Hercules and Love Affair, and Hercules and Love Affair is he. And tonight is an unspeakably heroic outburst from the New Yorker. Hercules and Love Affair represent something of a nomadic cirque, the attractions and fundamental artists of which revolve with the whimsy of a rickety fairground ride. It seems apposite, therefore, that playing as part of Antony's Meltdown they take to the littlest of big tops among plasma-curdling screams emitted from the towering Chair-O-Planes, dilapidated roller coasters and the motionless carousels of the Priceless London Wonderground. And a soundtrack far preferable to the disconcertingly askew waltzer waltzes outside do they provide.

In reality, Hercules and Love Affair scarcely exist within reality as we know it: a desexualised yet sexed-up band of cross-dressing, gender-indeterminate marvels they're not only the main attraction of this particular circus tonight but also of the capital as a whole. Which is outré in itself, as Andy Butler et al. unapologetically inhabit and indeed embody the empyreal joys – the ecstatic highs, degenerate lows and general promiscuities of Manhattan's Inferno-bound Lower West circa '82. However tonight surreality reigns supreme as we're subject to a convincing festival aesthetic, replete with overpriced indulgences, that takes place beneath taught canvas in the shadow of the London Eye. It's glorious, unabashedly grade-A smut lined up right under London's nose and done so at a time when the world's every gaze be converged on our embracingly multicultural abode. Ooh right titillating a booking, it is.

Which is a little more than may be said of Boy Blue: an homage to Butler's beloved Sinead O'Connor, everything on this one feels odd at best; off to be hypercritical. Topically so perhaps within the context of such freakish circumstances, but still. The ever ursine figure of John Grant wobbles against an alluring blue hue, his huggable vocals for once undressed of sardonicism and whilst they may better those of Shaun Wright on record, that Butler elects to abstain initially from the house he's been building ever since scribing these sorts of songs in his formative years – years spent dishing out licks musical within the Denver leather subculture – feels a bit weird. As is the response incurred: static of foot through the segueing Time Will (dishearteningly devoid of Antony's emancipatory androgyny) and silent of voice further still, it's Londinium apathy at its most lethargic. It's understandable, if not excusable: it's not only early in the eve but early on in the week too. What's more the disparity between albums #1 and #2 is somewhat chasmic: where the eponymous début thrived on lavish string arrangements and great big live bass arpeggios, Blue Songs receded yet further into the vacated shells of time; into a utopian haven where the purchase of any old model from Boss' Dr. Rhythm series be prescribed in times of dolour. Maybe this was what the hordes anticipated although realistically, the highfalutin rapture of the former was all the more seductive and it's material sucked from this that scintillates tonight.

A quarter orchestra crammed onstage, Hercules Theme is a muscular powerhouse of brass, bravado and, for once, veritable brawn. "It's a little wacky, this one" Butler professes and he's not wrong: it's debatably his finest oeuvre to date, as it here plays off an aptly thematic flagrant sexual ambiguity. You Belong too, reconfigured as a bulkier hunk of faintly paranoiac thwump, reasserts Butler's deep affinity with house. As NYC as he is G-A-Y, he simultaneously purveys himself as a deplorably underestimated pop guru of our modern times as he beckons an unending entourage "to the stage" as though luring Olympic divers toward springboard or frenzied squeals to bingo plinth. "Beautiful, [INSERT FLAMBOYANT NOM DE PLUME OF DEPARTING VOCALIST HERE]" he'll colourfully decorate following every spin sung. Indeed if the evening begins to assume a kinda karaoke aesthetic then such impression only serves to accentuate just how many bona fide floor fillers Butler now boasts. He's the wonder of the Wonderground; the omnipotent Queen of his transsexual kings. It's all darn "fa-di-da" and every song transports to the neon-daubed ribaldries of the Meatpacking District where the times are unremittingly good and the sounds come hard and fast. Where gender, social standing and all that cultural superfluity fade into a sweat-strewn haze: sexuality becomes about as relevant as the day of the week; as the point at which night becomes morning and morning in turn assimilates into afternoon.

Then, however, both poignancy and pertinence strike. John Grant reemerges from the wings to introduce Talk To You, a track written alongside Butler for Hercules and Love Affair's forthcoming third, and as yet untitled full-length. The pair allied in Vienna following Grant being diagnosed with HIV: when at the height of his heady and hugely unhealthy enslavement to cocaine, he later divulged fulfilled desires of having "nasty, unprotected sex with a weirdo in an alley" and although this may not have conclusively caused his contracting of the disease, his confessional is pretty stirring.

"It's supposed to be an uplifting song", he chokes having imparted leaden musings on how he perceives members of the gay community to obsess and self-punish over detrimental eventualities occurring in youth. It's both a tale and track of triumph in adversity though: a juxtaposition of a deep, blippy house groove and Grant's ever deeper baritone, it's a winsome polarity of further ecstasy aural and utter dejection oral. Yet it raises perturbations, primarily as to whether the gay solidarity of sorts fathered here and now may or may not lead to isolation. Doubtless the way in which these loveable individuals onstage refer to one another (affectionate he's interchanged with she's and so on) negates the overall import of sexuality, thus liberating human right etc. and yet tonight the tent not only brims with celebration but also appears to represent segregation to a degree. For as long as the gay community is adjudged – at best – to be unknowable other, or exotic alternative to what may be conservatively considered the norm Grant's cognisance of the body coming to bear a corporeal prison of sorts for the insecurities and shame engendered by unending societal opprobrium thus rings alarmingly. You sense that BoJo, for one, would rather spend the evening dangling from a zip wire out East than he would within the throbbing centre of this "lefty" jamboree.

The carnivalesque vibe swiftly whirls back around with the jaunty melodrama of Painted Eyes; a neat medley comprising the slightly contrived dance floor rhetorics of new numbers Be With You and Release Me, and an immaculately ordered My House; the grumbling Krautrock motorik to Visitor. The show therefore quite discernibly divided in two fragments as stark as night and day; New York and London, having profusely eulogised his string players ("they did a wonderful job") Butler propulsively thrusts further disco hyperbole. "Let's pump it", "Now we're gonna rumble" and so on and so forth. He's pulling the strings and calling the shots, disdainfully restarting a track or two as though the producer ensnared in safety beyond studio glass. Here concealed by the cast of darkness, he's imperious even though his more recent electro dirt may not be a patch on that of Azari & III. His heterogeneous retinue meanwhile may encompass a natural successor to the otherwise elsewhere Nomi Ruiz in melisma fiend Aerea Negrot, and an '80s-styled Alice Glass wannabe in the peroxide-brutalised figure of DJ Whitney Fierce whose vapid yelps of "Get up!" during a routine Visitor fall on flattened soles. Seemingly uncomfortable, her coital groaning and speaker molesting to the frivolous synthpop backing of Step Up do little to differentiate her from Yelle or whoever.

However Butler has quite the contacts, and moreover a quite remarkable crony in tow tonight. "He's the one in charge", he glibly blabs as "Miss Antony" wafts out in monochromatic smock. His vox on an otherwise splendiferous Raise Me Up seem a little deflated although with cynicism checked in at the door and with an unconditional enamouring acquired in its place, it's a qualm that all but evaporates in immateriality. "Come on Miss. Butler – let's try somethin' else!" he then jubilantly contends. And he looks genuinely liberated. Whether that be from the perennially glum pains of the 'Johnsons discog or otherwise, happiness befits him better than I could ever have expected. We're even afforded a detailed history to that track before it's débuted live: with Antony having cultivated an allergy to his own cat, the pair began to spend considerable amounts of time together with the critter under Butler's custody. Naturally, they began to write, writhing in each other's creativity. Then, having been recorded in "a $10 dollar studio" (Midtown's Lofish Recording Studios) Blind was canned only to then be cracked open in the wake of Antony's Mercury Music Prize conquest. Savvy business acumen, eh? Although it's not as savvy as its disco shimmy is tonight steamy. The tent thus transmogrified into infernal sauna with this upping of both ante and ºC, it's yet more celebratory stuff: of the here, the now, and the then. For Butler's ear was (and given Grant's inclusion, obviously still is) as attuned to the perfectly fitted vocalist as it is to his synth presets. Antony then "disappeared just like that"; like Butler made his very own recalcitrant cat.

Of course if Christianity comes good Butler shan't ascend anywhere celestial, despite his abilities to soundtrack one hell of a heavenly house party as he deigns even to dole out a reverb-sodden, trisyllabic rap of "Boogie down" on a retake of Ganymed's It Takes Me Higher – a sonic nod to his Vienna hang time. Here in London however, these sorts of soirées are all about the experience and Andy furnished us with one of the most stimulating in our recent, conservatively and commensurately poorly governed actualities. Fa-di-da indeed.