CRR archive concert review by Eric Sandberg — photos by Manny Hernandez — Sons of Apollo - live at the House of Blues Anaheim May 4, 2018
God of the Sun |Sign of The Time| Divine Addiction| Just Let Me Breathe| Labyrinth |Bass Solo| Lost In Oblivion| The Prophet's Song |Save Me (Queen Cover)| Alive| The Pink Panther Theme |Opus Maximus |Figaro's Whore |Keyboard Solo | Lines In The Sand
And the Cradle Will Rock (Van Halen Cover) |Coming Home |Happy Trails (Roy Rogers Cover)
Sons of Apollo are:
Mike Portnoy on Drums & Vocals
Jeff Scott Soto on Lead Vocals
Ron (Bumblefoot) Thal on Lead Guitar & Vocals
Derek Sherinian on Keyboards
Billy Sheehan on Bass
Full disclosure: I was only vaguely aware of the existence of this band on the morning of this show. I had an idea of who was in the band and, upon originally reading about it, I very possibly said something like, "They should have called themselves The Journeymen".
Not because their frontman had a brief stint in Journey (saving their bacon in the process, before being shown the door), but because everyone in the band are highly skilled artisans of no fixed abode. Massive stardom has eluded Jeff Scott Soto during a career in which he has fronted for Yngwie Malmsteen, Talisman, W.E.T., SOTO, Trans Siberian Orchestra and the aforementioned, Journey.
Billy Sheehan is, perhaps, the greatest Rock bassist alive, with a resume that includes Steve Vai, David Lee Roth, Mr. Big, UFO, Niacin and The Winery Dogs. Derek Sherinian, a keyboard monster, has been associated with Steve Vai, Kiss, Dream Theater, Planet X, Alice Cooper, Billy Idol, and, was utterly wasted as a member of another supergroup, Black Country Communion.
Bumblefoot, who does anything but bumble on his doubleneck guitar, has played with several bands, most notably with the pre-reunion Guns N' Roses.
And then there is Mike Portnoy, a founding member of Dream Theater who, while stepping out for a quick smoke, found the door had closed and locked behind him. A brief list of his activities since then includes Avenged Sevenfold, Adrenaline Mob, Transatlantic, Stone Sour, Bigelf, The Winery Dogs...you get the idea. Taking all of the above into account, it is understandable why I may have dismissed this group, purely due to cross-pollination supergroup fatigue.
So, "How did you end up at this show?" you may ask. Around lunchtime, I got a message from my buddy Manny that he had won four tickets for Sons of Apollo, that night, at the House of Blues. An hour later, I got a message from my buddy Ray that he had also "won" four tickets. Apparently, the only reason I didn't win four tickets is that I didn't enter.
So, off we went to Anaheim to check these guys out. It was a star-studded affair, and by star-studded I mean that I briefly glimpsed August Zadra, who is the ersatz Tommy Shaw in Dennis DeYoung's band, getting frisked at the metal detector. On the way in, we chuckled at the scalper who "pssst' at us whispering, "Need any tickets"?
The triple bill opened up with a local Prog/Metal band called Sifter who delivered an impressive set of energetic, intricate but melodic music, with just the right amount of Thrash. They were followed by the intriguing Felix Martin, who plays a very odd-looking, specially built guitar which is actually two guitars fused together and played by Martin simultaneously.
The music was an amalgam of percussive Prog/Metal with sprinklings of Jazz and Venezuelan Folk music. The novelty of his playing style wore off quickly for me, especially as his drummer and bass player, who were keeping excellent time with his ambidextrous prestidigitations, often drowned him out.
By 10PM, Sons of Apollo took the stage and almost immediately rendered my snarky misgivings about this cobbled together outfit moot. These guys sound like they have been playing together for twenty years. Jeff Scott Soto is not only a singer, he is a charismatic frontman, orchestral conductor and Master of Ceremonies.
His voice is supple and powerful and his stage antics draw all eyes to him, but he selflessly uses his moves to draw your attention back to the amazing players with whom he is sharing the stage.
Bumblefoot was a revelation to me. I am not a big fan of Shred but he made me a fan of his by putting melodicism and invention first, while capping those off with death defying feats of skill. He also got to show off his impressive pipes in a couple of featured singing moments.
Derek Sherinian, who is barely audible on three BCC albums gets to go into full Rick Wakeman mode with this band as he straddled an arsenal of keyboards and used them all to stunning effect while serving to keep the music grounded.
Billy Sheehan is Billy Sheehan, same jeans, same button shirt, same pulled back ponytail, but playing with more of a fire and sense of purpose then he did the last time I saw him with the late, lamented, Mr. Big.
I can't write anything about Mike Portnoy that any rock fan doesn't already know. He is an irrepressible presence, having the time of his life wherever he is playing and with whomever he is playing. He is not a drummer you ever forget is back there, no matter what is going on elsewhere on the stage.
Make no mistake, Sons of Apollo is a real band, and if they stick together, and rope in some of their more extreme musical tendencies on future albums, they might just be able to sell all their tickets.
Eric Sandberg: My true opinion on everything is that it's splunge.