By some quirk of the calendar, the architects of two of rock's greatest bands will perform in Miami the same week. July 7, we get former Beatle Paul McCartney, and six days later, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd arrives. As one rock legend after another slips from this mortal coil, these are must-attend shows. But be forewarned, as McCartney serenades you with "Blackbird" and recounts stories from the Beatles of yore and as Roger Waters names his tour after a piece of 1973's classic Us + Them, there will be a hint of sadness.
Of course you'll smile while singing along to "Hey Jude," and a chill will run down your spine hearing "Wish You Were Here," but who is not onstage will weigh as heavily on you as who is. Once the Beatles broke up in 1970, the Fab Four never played together again, and since Roger Waters left Pink Floyd in 1983, the band reunited for only one 2005 concert. Given the passing of John Lennon, George Harrison, and Rick Wright, we are long past full and proper reunions of the Beatles or Pink Floyd, which makes the last decades even more tragic.
It would have been one thing if McCartney had spent the past few decades cobbling shoes or if Waters had joined the circus and saved Ringling Bros. from extinction, or even if they had declared themselves artistes who played only new compositions, but they haven't. They've been touring relentlessly, playing the songs of their and our youths, but without the guys with whom they originally made the music. That's their prerogative. Lord knows their music has enriched all our lives, but these solo shows have a tinge of catching your divorced dad out on the town with his new family.
Did you ever see The Beatles Anthology? It was a 1995 megadocumentary that tells the history of the greatest band ever so perfectly that it almost makes you think it was made up. The Beatles' story becomes a beautiful metaphor for youth and the loss of innocence that comes with age. But the end of the documentary will kill you. After spending ten hours watching the four lads from Liverpool catching STDs in Hamburg and running from screaming girls and experimenting with LSD and traveling to India and making timeless songs, you see the three Beatles who were still alive in the '90s sitting on the grass of one of their estates while reminiscing about the past. But then all of a sudden George says, “Well, I’ve got to get going,” and Ringo says he has something to do, and Paul also pretends he has some other pressing engagement. You're left wondering that if these three guys who shared so much and created such lasting works together can’t stand one another’s company, what hope is there for the rest of us?
If you interview enough musicians, you will undoubtedly hear that being in a band is like being in a marriage except with four or five people. If you accept that cliché as truth and so many romantic marriages end prematurely, is it unrealistic to expect musical marriages to extend forever? When you are an adolescent, as the members of the Beatles and Pink Floyd were when they met, can you have the slightest idea of whom you want to be around when you're 75 or even 35?
Another wildly successful band that will come to town this week might have discovered a solution. The heavy-metal titans of Metallica, who will also play Miami July 7, have sold more than 90 million records, but their most lasting effect on music history might be what was captured in their 2004 documentary, Some Kind of Monster. Singer James Hetfield, drummer Lars Ulrich, and guitarist Kirk Hammett, 20 years into Metallica, were suffering a midlife crisis. They were blocked from creating new music, and they hated each other's guts, so they decided to do what so many wedded people do: They entered therapy. They talked about their past, they talked about their present, and they got back into the recording studio. Many Metallica fans, like fans of most bands, will bitch that even with the therapy, the band's best stuff was its earliest stuff. But they've put out three more records since therapy, experimented in a musical fivesome with Lou Reed, and most important to fans, continued to tour playing Metallica songs in a lineup that even the most devout purist would agree is Metallica.
Would getting in a room with a licensed specialist have been able to save other acts from dividing? Imagine Sigmund Freud psychoanalyzing the Beatles or Carl Jung dissecting Pink Floyds' dreams. It would have been worth a shot.
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Maybe the right therapy could help Waters mend his rift with David Gilmour and Nick Mason so they could reunite again before heading to that great gig in the sky. And while half the Beatles have now left us, wouldn't a tour where Paul played bass and Ringo kept the beat to "With a Little Help From My Friends" bring tears to our eyes?
But let's be realistic. It's rare to reunite with your first love. So don't stay home playing decades-old albums. You'll miss out on some pretty good shows. Hearing the men who wrote "Penny Lane" and "Breathe" play those songs live is still worth whatever outrageous price of admission they charge.
8 p.m. Friday, July 7, at American Airlines Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 786-777-1000; aaarena.com. Tickets cost $60 to $570 via ticketmaster.com.
8 p.m. Thursday, July 13, at American Airlines Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 786-777-1000; aaarena.com. Tickets cost $51 to $195 via ticketmaster.com.