By Paul Eastwood
Following a series of dates in South America, Sons of Apollo played their inaugural Canadian concert at the Corona Theatre in Montreal on April 19th. Originally a movie theatre built in the 1920’s, the Corona Theatre provided an excellent setting for the event, with a vintage yet apt ambience. The enthusiastic crowd sported a wide variety of t-shirts displaying the band member’s previous ensembles.
The opening act, Felix Martin, displayed astonishing virtuosity on a self-designed fourteen string twin-necked guitar. The resulting sound is of two guitars played simultaneously, creating sweeping arpeggios, percussive effects and hints of the folk music of his native Venezuela. Accompanied by the equally accomplished Chilean bassist Javier Sepulveda and Spanish drummer Victor A. Carracedo, Felix Martin delivered an evocative and stunning set.
Introduced by a recording of Van Halen’s Intruder, Sons of Apollo hit the stage with God of the Sun, the first track from their debut album Psychotic Symphony. All nine tracks from the album were flawlessly recreated by a literal who’s who of prog rock.
The undeniable heart of the band is drummer Mike Portnoy (Dream Theatre, Winery Dogs, Flying Colors and many more), who can make the most complex patterns and meters seem effortless, all while adding harmony vocals . Bassist Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big, David Lee Roth, Winery Dogs, etc.) combines tapping with blinding speed while holding down the bottom end on his double neck signature Yamaha bass. His extended solo reaffirmed his position as an elite technical monster. Derek Sherinian (Dream Theatre, Billy Idol, etc.) set the mood for many songs, jumping from keyboard to keyboard with sounds from subtle to Wagnerian, and presented an extended solo with many nods to Eddie Van Halen. On guitar, Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal (Guns N’ Roses, Art of Anarchy) pummelled and caressed his unique double neck guitar (one fretted, one fretless, leaving all jaws suitably dropped. He also provided flawless harmony and some lead vocals. Bumblefoot added some levity to the show with an interpretation of the theme from the Pink Panther.
How is it possible to add to such an unparalleled instrumental lineup? Simple, just get Jeff Scott Soto to front the band. The power and control of his voice is phenomenal, and his command of the stage was evident from the onset. His vocal solo was an homage to his self-proclaimed influence, the great Freddie Mercury. The echo-laden ‘The Prophet’s Song’ and ‘Save Me’ were highlights of the show.
Back to the show! As mentioned, the entire Psychotic Symphony was performed, with Labyrinth being my personal favourite. Two Dream Theatre compositions, ‘Just Let Me Breathe’ and ‘Lines in the Sand’, were very well received. The encore began with Jeff Scott Soto emerging from the back of the audience with a well-deserved drink in hand for a cover of Van Halen’s ‘The Cradle Will Rock’ followed by another song from Psychotic Symphony, ‘Coming Home’.
The musical and vocal virtuosity was evident throughout the show, but the lasting impression is of the obvious chemistry the five members of Sons of Apollo have on stage, and the respect they have for each other. This was a truly memorable night!
Sons Of Apollo