Sons of Apollo, the supergroup with Mike Portnoy, Derek Sherinian, Billy Sheehan, Bumblefoot and Jeff Scott Soto, made their first ever Canadian appearance last night in support of their début album “Psychotic Symphony”. Opening the evening was Venezuelan guitarist Felix Martin, who showed impressive chops playing a double guitar, in a similar way to a Chapman Stick, by tapping with both hands. Backed by a bass player and drummer, his music went from melodic to ambient to chaotically percussive. This isn’t the type of music that’s easy to discover in a live context, but his technical prowess made his set fascinating, and the crowd enthusiastically appreciated.
The Sons’ set started with “God of the Sun”, one of the highlight of the record. Both Bumblefoot and Billy Sheehan played double neck guitars, and two necks were barely enough to contain the constant displays of virtuosity. Bumblefoot’s guitar sports a fretless neck, which doesn’t impede him in any way from dizzying fast runs. If I thought he was miscast in Guns n’ Roses, he is a perfect fit for Sons of Apollo, and he gave an impressive performance throughout the night, even going so far as singing a verse in their cover of Dream Theater’s “Just Let Me Breathe”… the guy’s got pipes!
With a band filled with virtuosos, you know they’ll get their moment in the spotlight at one point in the show. Singer Jeff Scott Soto showed his amazing vocal skills with a rendition of the middle section of Queen’s “Prophet Song”, where he harmonized with himself with the use of a repeating delay effect. The band then joined him on another Queen number “Save Me”, halfway through which he reminisced about singing it in Montreal before, when he toured with the Queen Extravanganza. It’s not a simple feat to tackle that kind of material, but Soto’s clear and powerful voice was more than up to the task.
Mike Portnoy’s solo spot was surprisingly short and subdued, coming as part of one of the songs, but nonetheless impressive. Bumblefoot brought back the “Pink Panther” solo spot he was doing in Guns n’ Roses, and with the band, took the smooth, sassy melody to new heights of virtuosity. On bass, the 65-year-old Billy Sheehan may not move about the stage as much as he did before, but his fingers were all over the fretboards during his own solo moment, when he played through an impressive series of lighting fast licks (and was that a subtle “Tom Saywer” quote I heard?).
Derek Sherinian’s solo was not surprisingly Van Halen-esque, as he practically worships Eddie Van Halen. Sherinian’s ability to play guitar-esque runs on the keyboard is impressive, and he even snuck it quotes of the guitarist’s classic “Eruption”. As was the tradition when he was in Dream Theater, his spot led into “Lines in the Sand” that the band made its own with a stunning version of one of my favourite DT songs.
The band came back on stage, minus singer Soto who popped up in the crowd right besides me at the back! They launched into a spirited rendering of Van Halen’s “And the Cradle With Rock”, and the Corona did rock. Soto even stole David Lee Roth’s “I forgot the fucking words” routine…hey guys, if you need a break, how about a Van Halen tribute band? I’d be there.
They closed the set with “Coming Home”, the highlight track of “Psychotic Symphony”, after close to two hours of fantastic musicianship.
Attendance was a bit disappointing, with the balcony closed off, but hopefully the band can grow their audience. In an interview, singer Jeff Scott Soto told me they plan to go back into the studio right after the tour for a follow-up record, and I’m looking forward to it a lot.