Timeline Albums, EPs & singles Songs Films Concerts Sessions People Interviews Articles


Designing the stage sets for “The Paul McCartney World Tour”

Last updated on December 22, 2023

From Work | Brian Clarke: architectural artist, stained glass artist and painter:

Ephemeral in their dimensions of time, space and sound, mobile in venues as far afield as Wembley, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro, made under direction by a team of painters in hired studios, these rolled translucent canvasses, some three stories high, defy the traditional boundaries of stage sets or paintings – they are closer to a transient and nomadic architecture.” – Norman Foster

Brian Clarke first made his set designs for The Paul McCartney World Tour as scale designs in acrylic and collage, cutting and tearing his signature grid and amorphic elements by hand, with the full-size stage sets executed by set painters, first on canvas and then on acoustically transparent scrim as the show was expanded for larger venues. The tour, McCartney’s first under his own name, played to 2,843,297 people between ’89 and ’90, and promoted the album Flowers in the Dirt, whose cover Clarke had designed in collaboration with Linda McCartney. The paintings were at the time Clarke’s largest ever, superseded a few years later by his world-record-setting painted sets for McCartney’s The New World Tour (1992–93).

“In their first incarnation these drops took the form of four paintings each 34 ft by 18 ft. When the show moved from arena to stadium venues in early 1990 two additional wings were conceived to extend stage left and stage right, each canvas being 54 ft x 54 ft and painted on acoustically transparent scrim. Working with lighting designer Mark Brickman the sets were flooded with varying colours in direct relation to the music. The ‘Arena’ sets were used in the European and first leg of the USA tour and the ‘Stadium’ sets in Japan, South America, and the USA second leg.”

“A dramatic example of the versatility of Brian Clarke’s skill can be found in his execution of the stage sets for Paul McCartney’s world tour. The rock (and folk) concerts of the 60s were multimedia ‘events’, and the interplay of light and sound were inducements to the loss of self in transcendent ecstasy, a modern Dionysian rite. In his world tour (1989-1990) Paul McCartney recreates the concept of the light show, but introduces an architectonic element in the form of the huge stage sets created by Clarke: “The stage design is a first for me. Paul and Linda conceived the whole as a real art event.” The sets, which can be appreciated as independent works, have been designed to function in combination with the virtuosic display of lights. The variation in colour and intensity of light in stained glass, which is normally produced by ambient natural light, is simulated in the sets by projected artificial lights to create what appears to be an infinity of modulations in a stained glass ‘tableau vivant’.” –Paul Beldock in the essay Into Architecture, from the book Brian Clarke: Into and Out of Architecture.

Going further

The Beatles Diary Volume 2: After The Break-Up 1970-2001

"An updated edition of the best-seller. The story of what happened to the band members, their families and friends after the 1970 break-up is brought right up to date. A fascinating and meticulous piece of Beatles scholarship."

We owe a lot to Keith Badman for the creation of those pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details - a day to day chronology of what happened to the four Beatles after the break-up and how their stories intertwined together!

Shop on Amazon

The Beatles - The Dream is Over: Off The Record 2

This edition of the book compiles more outrageous opinions and unrehearsed interviews from the former Beatles and the people who surrounded them. Keith Badman unearths a treasury of Beatles sound bites and points-of-view, taken from the post break up years. Includes insights from Yoko Ono, Linda McCartney, Barbara Bach and many more.

Shop on Amazon

Paul McCartney writing

Talk more talk, chat more chat

Notice any inaccuracies on this page? Have additional insights or ideas for new content? Or just want to share your thoughts? We value your feedback! Please use the form below to get in touch with us.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

2024 • Please note this site is strictly non-commercial. All pictures, videos & quoted texts remain the property of the respective copyright owner, and no implication of ownership by us is intended or should be inferred. Any copyright owner who wants something removed should contact us and we will do so immediately. Alternatively, we would be delighted to provide credits.