SONS OF APOLLO
VENUE ISLINGTON ASSEMBLY HALL, LONDON
It’s interesting to note Sons Of Apollo’s intro and outro music tonight, which is Van Halen’s Intruder and Happy Trails. The band even throw in a boisterous cover of And The Cradle Will Rock during their encores, while keyboard player Derek Sherinian incorporates a piece from Spanish Fly into his solo spot and guitarist Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal toys with Mean Streets.
While it’s hardly surprising that a bunch of US musicians of a certain age are still in thrall to the mighty Van Halen, much of the drive behind Sons Of Apollo’s juggernaut blend of prog and heavy rock seems to be derived from Deep Purple more than anything else.
You wonder what any dyed-in-the-wool progger would make of it all, until you remember that there are probably few in attendance, as many would have already been put off by Mike Portnoy’s prog metal days in Dream Theater, the CVs of the musicians in the band (who have played with the likes of Guns N’ Roses, Mr Big and Journey) or simply because they’ve heard that Sons Of Apollo like to rock. But the Assembly Hall is packed with a good-natured crowd who are happy to rock out with Portnoy and his pals.
And rock out Sons Of Apollo most certainly do, mixing the bulk of their self-titled debut with Dream Theater’s Just Let Me Breathe and Lines In The Sand, the onus throughout being very much on having a good time.
And, boy, do the band look like they’re enjoying themselves. Shapes are thrown, hair is tossed around, grins abound as the Sons Of Apollo party rides into town. Sure, when you’re dealing with musicians of this calibre you get the expected solos, but they’re well enough paced and placed within the set to assuage the boredom some of us might feel seeing Billy Sheehan strut his four-stringed stuff while his bandmates depart the stage.
The star of the show, however, is singer Jeff Scott Soto. Having previously toured with the likes of Talisman, Journey and, er, Yngwie Malmsteen, Soto’s better known to melodic rock fans, but he can really wrap his vocal round a prog-meets-heavy-rock tune like God Of The Sun or Labyrinth. And his solo spot, tackling Queen’s majestic The Prophet’s Song, is the standout moment of the night, with the audience joining in for the rousing rendition of Save Me that follows.
Like many of the projects Portnoy’s thrown himself into since he left Dream Theater, prog is only part of the equation. Sons Of Apollo sound like how Deep Purple might have if they had they gone a bit prog back in the day. That might not be to everyone’s taste, but man is it great fun to watch.
“SHAPES ARE THROWN, HAIR
IS TOSSED AROUND, GRINS ABOUND AS THE SONS OF APOLLO PARTY RIDES INTO TOWN.”
ABOVE: JEFF SCOTT SOHO ROCKS OUT. TWO HEADS ARE BETTERTHAN ONE: GUITARIST BUMBLEFOOT (LEFT) AND BASSIST BILLY SHEEHAN.