SONS OF APOLLO
DATE: Sunday 8th July 2018
VENUE: Rescue Rooms in Nottingham, UK
Review & Photography by Mark Holmes
SONS OF APOLLO
As Sons of Apollo roll into Nottingham to conclude their inaugural European headline tour, the air temperature in this East Midlands city is hitting around 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Inside a sold out, 450 capacity Rescue Rooms, the ephemerally effective air conditioning soon subsides, as the interior temperature begins to reach furnace levels of heat. Well, not quite... but it's bloody hot! And the venue seems to get hotter still as this supergroup ensemble of virtuosic musicians take to the stage at 9pm prompt. Cue the appearance of the reunited ex-Dream Theater Del Fuvio Brothers - ubiquitous sticksman Mike Portnoy and keyboardist Derek Sherinian - along with bass legend Billy Sheehan; guitarist Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal; and frontman Jeff Scott Soto.
Declaring themselves, via band moniker, as the offspring of the ancient Roman/Greek god of music and poetry, is there a degree of pomposity or arrogance attached to this? Or merely setting the bar high for their musicality and collective potential? Billy assured me earlier in the day that it was firmly tongue-in-cheek and, despite the astute seriousness of the songs, as witnessed on last year's magnificent debut offering, 'Psychotic Symphony', in a live context, this bunch are all about unmitigated entertainment, as they work their way through a set of prog metal and classic rock splendour.
The songs are conveyed ever so effectively through their live performance, right from off, with the 10+ minutes of 'God of the Sun', which opens both the album and their show tonight. Their onstage energy levels and general dynamic as a band are impressive, as the track is delivered with impassioned intent. What an intensely tangible live chemistry these guys have! This is something beyond flawless renditions of the 'Psychotic Symphony' tracklist. This is a full-on intoxicating live experience!
Two more album tracks follow - 'Signs of the Time' and 'Divine Addiction' - before Mike and Derek indulge, with their bandmates, in a little Dream Theater nostalgia, with an airing of 'Just Let Me Breathe'. It's as nostalgic, I'm sure, for a number of punters in the crowd. And Jeff requests the crowd to stop breathing as there's not enough oxygen in the room... an axiomatic reference to both the track, I know, but also true of the heat inside, which must be over a 100 degrees already!
Another lengthy album track follows, with 'Labyrinth', before Billy impresses with his solo spot on the bass... breath-taking stuff... for many, no doubt... so I'm sure Jeff partly got his wish for the audience to stop breathing... at least metaphorically! 'Lost in Oblivion' sees the full band return to the stage, before Jeff's & co. indulge in a little Queen, with the vocal harmonies from 'The Prophet's Song'. Jeez, this man can sing. What a set of pipes! Incredible stuff. Likewise on his and Ron's take on further Queen, in the form of 'Save Me'. The announcement of the latter is touchingly dedicated to the tragically departed David Zablidowsky, one of Jeff's former SOTO brethren. And it's an emotional performance that sees the Rescue Rooms erupt in loud, enthusiastic cheers and applause at the song's conclusion.
Back to 'Psychotic Symphony' next for 'Alive', before Ron leads the way into a 'better than it sounds on paper' cover of the Pink Panther theme. The album's lengthy, climactic, instrumental epic, 'Opus Maximus' is given an airing next, before Derek takes the spotlight for 'Fagaro's Whore' and more solo shenanigans. It's a disjointed set, in one sense, and just a tad self-indulgence in places... but, when the talent up on the stage is as mindblowing as the personnel that constitutes this outfit, all of that can be forgiven. Besides, the many setlist tangents add to the fun and unpredictability. Having said that, I guess the inevitability of further Mike/Derek Dream Theater music rears its head next, with 'Lines in the Sand', to wrap up the pre-encore merriment.
But the real merriment has yet to commence. With band members adhering to the "stage exit" formality before the "oh my god, they've returned for an encore" predictabilty, a guitar solo by Ron leads into a cover of Van Halen's 1980 track, 'And the Cradle Will Rock...'. This sees Jeff appear at the back of the venue, by the bar, to grab a drink and pose for selfies with some evidently delighted punters, before he slowly makes his way through the capacity crowd, singing away, and eventually returning to the stage. And, to close proceedings, a much longer version of second 'Psychotic Symphony' track, 'Coming Home' is performed. This is complete with a sing-along, where Jeff references the English football team's winning World Cup streak by changing the usual words of "it's coming home" to "football's coming home". He sings "football", the crowd enthusiastically voice "coming home". Seems there's no escape from the current football fever that's gripped the nation. And rightfully so! Mike also chips in with a sing-along request of his own, with "I come in butt"... or something to that effect. It amuses Jeff, if no-one else.
As the clock hits the curfew cut-off of 11pm, and after a whopping two hours on stage, the Sons are done, although not before band introductions, in the form of Jeff reciting limericks for each of them, rhyming "boy" with "Portnoy" and "photo" with "Soto". It tops off a fun, and ridiculously hot night, perfectly.
Click on thumbnails for larger images:
Sons of Apollo at the Rescue Rooms in Nottingham, UK, 8th July 2018
Photograph copyright © 2018 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com