It always amazes me how a less than mainstream band (even though heavyweights in their own right) can attract a sizeable crowd on a Monday night. It’s highly unlikely there were many students at this gig, although within rolling out of bed distance, and even the bar girl was puzzled.
Sons of Apollo concluded a short run of dates in Manchester following their earlier sojourn in July after they’d played Ramblin’ Man Fair. Jeff Scott Soto kept telling us “it shouldn’t feel like a Monday” although I think even he was impressed by both the turnout and the crowd engagement.
Whilst some would obviously be attracted by the band’s very fine debut album last year, others might have simply wanted to witness one of the more recent “supergroups”. And of course others may have been intrigued with the Dream Theater connection.
With only one album under their belt they had to stretch the setlist. They did this via several individual showcases which had the effect of breaking up any real momentum.
Soto’s spot was brief, a multi-tracked homage to Queen, whilst Bumblefoot got his day in the sun with a rocked up version of ‘The Pink Panther’. Derek Sherinian looked like he was moonlighting from Foreigner and went for drama at the expense of a tune. And Billy Sheehan plumped for a formidable twin-bass onslaught.
Mike Portnoy on the other hand exercised solo restraint and, surprisingly, without his own extended party piece. It was, though, a masterclass in powerhouse drumming throughout as you’d expect.
All musicians looked like they really believed in what they were doing reinforcing the band’s own claim that this is not just a side-project. Sheehan in particular approached his task with the same sort of energy and time-worn excellence that you get from Jeff Pilson.
As far as their own material was concerned the shorter songs like ‘Alive’ and ‘Divine Addiction’ came across really well, as they do on the album.
But it was a version of ‘Lines In The Sand’ (from Dream Theater’s ‘Falling Into Infinity’) that proved a highlight and made you wonder why they couldn’t have played more from that connection (apart from ‘Just Let Me Breathe’). And why perhaps they couldn’t have dipped into Soto’s very fine back catalogue too. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating your heritage.
We can only hope that, with album two, the formidable Sons will fashion a setlist of greater substance than mere showmanship, great though that is.
Earlier, Schiermann is another bald-headed guitarist who looks like a wrestler. His younger cohorts on bass and drums were subsumed by a rattly backing track that even masked their leader’s unconvincing guitar shapes. If this is the future of prog metal, we’re fucked.
Sons of Apollo setlist: 1. God Of The Sun 2. Signs Of The Time 3. Divine Addiction 4. Just Let Me Breathe 5. Labyrinth 6. Bass Solo 7. Lost In Oblivion 8. The Prophet’s Song 9. Save Me 10. Alive 11. The Pink Panther Theme 12. Opus Maximus 14. Lines In The Sand Encore: 15. And The Cradle Will Rock 16. Coming Home
Review and photos by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
Album review (Psychotic Symphony)
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 30 August 2020.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 8 September 2020.
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