Words and Pictures: Robert Cavuoto
Sons of Apollo performed a high octane show at the PlayStation Theater in New York City on Friday, May 18th to support their latest progressive metal masterpiece, Psychotic Symphony. They are a powerhouse group of all-star musicians featuring Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal on guitar, Mike Portnoy on drums, Derek Sherinian on keyboards, Billy Sheehan on bass, and Jeff Scott Soto on vocals; five legendary musicians whose star wattage could illuminate Broadway with their presence, chemistry, and energy.
Together they blazed through their debut CD live which included “God of the Sun,” “Divine Addiction,” “Lost in Oblivion,” “Opus Maximus” and “Alive.” All songs are based in metal with melodic grooves and coupled with leads that have progressive structures. These five highly talented musicians they flew through lightning-quick arpeggios, unison runs, and polyrhythmic sections flawlessly. All the songs were played with a level of technical perfection that left fans in awe of the musical abilities.
Armed with his signature series Vigier fretted/unfretted double neck guitar, Bumblefoot’s playing was superb and masterful. He thrilled the crowd with guitar acrobats; a gifted player who can make progressive metal guitar playing savagely entertaining while bending sound as well as minds alike.
Prior to the show, I ask him about performing the band’s technically challenging songs live. He told me, “I painted myself into a corner with Psychotic Symphony! The challenge is not remembering the all the parts; the hardest part is switching from the fretted neck while playing chords in the chorus to then having to jump to the fretless neck to do a riff while changing the pickups on one of the necks for a different sound. I have to do this little dance while playing with toggle switches and pulling down of the volume without stumbling.” In the fun spirit of the night, Bumblefoot performed a scorching version of the “Pink Panther Theme Song” complete with a sing along to the melody.
Jeff’s powerful voice enhanced their songs and gave them their edgy bite. Mid-set, he stopped to pay homage to Chris Cornell of Soundgarden who had passed away a year ago to the day with a Queen medley of “The Prophets Song” and “Save Me” as just he and Bumblefoot took center stage.
Billy Sheehan had all ten fingers continually moving across both necks of his double neck bass, performing runs at high speed for almost every beat of every measure. He’s a master player who knows when to play smooth and tastefully to allow Bumblefoot’s guitar to soar yet massive and powerful when needed to be in lockstep with Mike’s drumming.
Mike Portnoy dazzled the crowd with complex drumming techniques, pounding out the rhythms and doing simple stick tricks which always got the crowd applauding and laughing.
Keyboardist Derek Sherinian had multiple keyboards on stage with him in order to recreate the band signature sound perfectly. One could not help but notice he had more amps than Billy and Bumblefoot combined! During his solo, he looked like a mad scientist banging out the complex parts while plumes of smoke billowed out on a stage bathed in red light.
During my talk with Bumblefoot, he candidly told me that fans hold the key to the Sons of Apollo’s future as to whether a second CD will happen. If tonight’s performance is indicative of fans responses around the country, there should be plenty more CDs in store for the band!
Sons of Apollo had the fans standing on their feet all night, and the applause that followed every song was clearly heartfelt. Not many bands today truly embody the spirit of progressive metal. Many try, only a few succeed, and Sons of Apollo indeed hit the mark.