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Club Sandwich 54

            The raw material of artistic inspiration has never been adequately analysed but Marc Brickman, lighting designer for the Paul McCartney world tour, is quite clear about what fuels his fire: pizza.
            'When I'm given a job, what I do to work out the lighting concept is buy about six pizzas, go sit in my car, drive around, play the music, eat and bop - for days!' he says. 'I live with the music and eventually I get the idea. It comes from the gut.' That's pizza power, all right.
            Of course, McCartney presented a challenge. 'He's different,' says Marc. 'The thing is he didn't need me: he could show up on stage with a hundred-watt bulb above his head, play a coupla dozen hit songs and everyone would have a great time. But he had'nt been out on the road for ten years and he wanted to give his fans the best show in the world.
            'Well, the next thing I had to get used to was that working with him is very collaborative. I like that, but it's highly unusual. With rock'n'roll bands, taking decisions about the show is generally a secretive process, you know, like the star's in this other room with the manager and you 're never sure whether you 'II find out what's going on.
            'With Paul meetings included Linda, all of the band, and the other main people organising the tour. I was really surprised at the open way he conducts his business. What it does is give everyone a feeling of confidence.'
            Quite justified in Marc's case it would seem because, when the McCartney tour was winding up in April, he suddenly found himself the most popular lighting luminary around, taking care of major events like the Nelson Mandela tribute at Wembley Stadium, London, and the John Lennon memorial concert in Liverpool. But ever thus it wasn 't. . .
            'I started out in my homeroom, Philadelphia, sweeping the floors for an old theatrical lighting company,' say Marc, now 36. 'It's one of those all-American stories, man.'
            He wandered through his teens fairly free of ambition or achievement, bottoming out when he was ejected from college after a year and found himself with a handful of broom and blisters. But then, when the lighting company came up for grabs, Marc's businessman father bought a large piece of it and installed his only son as manager.
            'I got most of my lighting education working in ballet, legitimate theatre and opera around Philadelphia,' says Marc. 'But I did bring some rock'n'roll into the business, doing disco lights and stuff.'
            That was his apprenticeship. Soon there came a higher calling -from Bruce Springsteen, no less. 'Yeah, he was the first one who asked me to go out on the road. In fact, I worked with him and Southside johnny for the next ten years, '72 to '82. We went out with 24 lights in the back of a station wagon, slept four to a room or drove all night to the next gig. A great time.'
            Eventually, he branched out, touring with artists like Carole King and Boz Scaggs. Moving to Los Angeles, he founded his own lighting company, Roy G Biv - 'That's the name they use for teaching the colour spectrum to kids in school in America.' (Work it out for yourself!)
            From that point he hardly looked back. One particular collaboration that helped to put his name in lights, so to speak, was the work he did for Pink Floyd on the Wall and then, years later, on their post-Roger Waters comeback tour in '87-8, which featured some of the more mind-boggling venues ever to host a gig such as King Louis XIV of France's palace at Versailles.
            So what's it all about then, this lighting game, apart from wiggling a few lasers and hitting the right bloke with the follow-spot? And what does Marc Brickman put into it - apart from pizza - to make himself the boffin-star they're all after?
            'Heart,' he says. 'I put my heart into it. I've always been a big fan of music and basically I used to rock out with lights the way another kid would thrash a guitar. I mean, I still don't know what I do, it . . . it's real hard to explain.
            'Lighting is subliminal communication, I guess. You don't notice it except if it's very good or very bad. But if you went to a show and all you saw was white light for two and a half hours you'd probably be bored, especially when you're so used to cuts every three seconds on pop videos, everything moving so fast. At a concert, you've got a tribal gathering of 20,000 people - or almost 200,000 like Paul just had in Rio - and my job is to help carry their attention through to the last note. I have to make the lighting fit the music, enhance it, not distract from it.'
            But that's a big issue at the moment. Over the last couple of years some musicians have become worried that the new computerised pre-programmed lighting rigs could git in the way of spontaneity, that bands could end up tailoring the music to fit the lighting cues.
            'I went into this with Paul,' say Marc. 'I told him, 'Don't ever feel the technology's gonna box you in.' I did 750 shows with Springsteen and never even had a set list to work from. He'd tug his ear or twitch his nose or stamp his foot and we'd groove. The people don't come for the lights, do they? No artist should ever be thinking, 'I can't do this number I love because the lighting guy might get mad.' The band is driving the car, not me. If they want to change the set in the middle of the show, that's great, have a good time, guys.'
            Time and again Marc will stress that he really doesn't know how he got where he is today and that he can't see his luck lasting.
            'This year I'm the flavour,' he say, 'riding the wave. But you just know it's gonna end. I go to sleep every night paranoid that I'm going to be fired. Springsteen fired me, or his manager did. It was very painful but, okay . . . it was one of those times, a lot of politics. I don't make too many mistakes with the lighting itself, but I will open my big mouth. It's not the artists, it's the managers I sometimes have problems with.'
            There is no doubt one reason why, just as he's reached the top of his craft, he's hankering for something new. 'What I want is my 15 minutes in Hollywood,' he says. I wanna direct, own what I create, be in total control. It's a long, hard road though, and I still get a lot out of what I'm doing now.
            'I mean, the McCartney tour was the most wonderful experience I've had in the business. It can be that simple. It gets complicated when people start to grab and push and shove. Basically, it should be you do the job, you go home and have a pizza. Oh, I forgot one very important thing which is kiss my lovely wife and daughter. Then I can have the pizza.'