What KT Did

Do you want to know a secret? KT Tunstall has an imaginary friend. I know this because she told me about him. Only she doesn’t know that her friend is imaginary, she thinks he’s real.

Of course I haven’t actually been hanging out with KT herself, she told me and a couple of thousand other people about this whilst she was onstage at the new Carling Academy in Sheffield on Wednesday. This was our first visit, we weren’t quick enough off the mark for the opening night (which sold out alarmingly quickly) about which there were mixed reports. I was a little worried by James’ description of a 30 minute wait to get served at the bar, but fortunately the first night teething problems seem to have been resolved.

The Carling Academy occupies the building that was once The Roxy nightclub (or if you are really old, you may even remember it as the Top Rank). Apart from a brief and unlikely stint as a church, the building has been empty and quietly mouldering away for years. It’s a fairly large venue, so I can believe the reports that around £3 million has been spent on renovating it.

Outside still looks much the same, except for the name change. Inside will also be familiar to anyone who visited the old Roxy (I believe I just made an implicit admission there, but we’ll gloss over that). The building is basically a square, with a stage on the ground floor, the first floor is essentially an enormous gallery that overlooks what was once the dance floor (and probably still is on club nights).

What has changed? The stage seems a bit bigger than I remember, obviously there is now a ginormous mixing desk with a squillion controls, there is some seating along the back wall but the strange little circular banquettes that provided a venue for drunk people to get embarrassingly over-amorous have gone. The whole place has been decorated, refurbished and generally spruced up, even the toilets were clean and in working order. However, I was amused to note that the designer has retained one key feature from the old Roxy: a sticky carpet that clings slightly to your shoes as you walk across it. OK, it’s not the original sticky carpet, but it represents a small piece of Sheffield’s heritage nonetheless 🙂

There are of course lots of bars, selling lots of Carling (and one or two other beverages), and unlike James, we were served instantly. Marvellous. The beer wasn’t even as expensive as I feared, do you think they get a discount on Carling?

The gig was great. KT Tunstall was in fine form playing a selection of both new and not-so-new material. In between songs she chatted with the crowd, telling us about the inspirations for her songs, her opinions on plastic surgery, random facts (things invented by women) and of course her love of condiments.

As soon as she mentioned this, we knew what was coming next. She’s talked about it before, her passion for the unique Sheffield brew that is Henderson’s Relish. If you have ever lived in Sheffield you will understand the legendary status of this humble sauce. If you haven’t, well it’s a bit hard to explain, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

KT has clearly fallen in love with the stuff (at least, that’s what she tells her Sheffield fans) and is very envious of the likes of Sean Bean and Richard Hawley, who appear on the famous fan’s section of the Henderson’s website. She even dedicated a song to the man who works in the Henderson’s Factory. That’s when I realised that something was slightly amiss with Miss T, in fact KT has been letting her imagination run a little wild.

I hate to be the one to break the bad news KT, but there isn’t a man who works in the Henderson’s factory. No-one works in the Henderson’s factory. No-one at all. The relish is definitely made at the factory – you can smell it, but it is obviously brewed up in some strange, magical process, untouched by human hand. No-one has ever been seen arriving or leaving the Henderson’s factory. It’s a mysterious little place.

Normally I’d feel guilty about shattering someone’s illusions, but I can’t imagine that KT Tunstall is lurking out there reading this, so I think I’m safe…

I have to say that I was pretty impressed with the Carling Academy, both with the venue itself and the staff – it’s been a long time since I was last greeted in a polite and friendly way by security staff at a gig. I’m quite sure that Wednesday will be the first of many visits for us.

6 comments to What KT Did

  • I believe that the Oompa-Loompas work at Henderson’s. The savoury-preferring branch of the family.

  • robin

    I had tickets for James but couldn’t go in the end…gutted! I hope this venue does well – but not at the expense of any other Sheffield venues.

  • not at the expense of any other Sheffield venues

    You are absolutely right there. I think it’ll be great if a new venue attracts some of the many bands who usually bypass Sheffield altogether, but not if it just puts someone else out of business.

    I know that the University Students’ Union are worried, I suspect other venues are as well.

  • Thanks for the really old comment! Yes, I do remember it as Top Rank :p

    Would it be really silly (and provocative) of me to add: you forgot to mention the time that Henderson’s Relish was produced in two bottles – one with red and white stripes, one with blue and white. The red and white one tasted far better!

    [Not that I tasted the one in the blue and white bottle! But me and Miss KT, you see, we know these things.]

  • Ah yes, those red and white/blue and white Henderson’s bottles. I actually bought one of each and put them on a kitchen shelf, next to some other spurious kitchen tat(I’m strange like that).

    Mr TLC later opened the blue and white bottle and used it. The red and white one mysteriously disappeared. Of course Mr TLC knows nothing whatsoever about this (allegedly).

  • Gotta lurve Mr. TLC!

    I know exactly where he is coming from!

    Of course, he’s totally wrong and slightly deluded – but I can say that because I’m 5000+ miles away :^)