There aren’t many bands in history with the pedigree of Sons of Apollo. Made up of powerhouse vocalist Jeff Scott Soto of Talisman, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and Soto, among others, guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, formerly of Guns N’ Roses, bass god Billy Sheehan, known for his work with Talas, Winery Dogs, and Mr. Big, and former Dream Theater bandmates drummer Mike Portnoy and keyboardist Derek Sherinian, the band is stacked with talent. Sons of Apollo released their second studio record MMXX earlier this year and embarked on a brief North American tour prior to heading to Europe.
On Wednesday, February 5 the band brought their show to Boston, MA with main support by legendary guitarist Tony MacAlpine. This is the second studio album and touring cycle for SOA, the first being for 2018’s debut Psychotic Symphony. The Sons of Apollo that hit the stage in 2020 is a very different live act than what we saw in 2018. Back then, the band only had one record of original material so, in order to put on a 2-hour show, the night was enhanced by multiple covers that not only took from the members’ past projects (2 tracks from Dream Theater’s Falling Into Infinity were featured) but also from their individual influences (Soto’s Queen medley). The result, although successful in making for a memorable night, came off more as a collective of individuals than a band. Now that the set is made up of nearly every song from their two studio records with only one cover (a blistering version of Deep Purple’s “Burn” featuring Tony Macalpine) the night truly showcases what a cohesive band these talented individuals have become.
Seven tracks from each studio record blend into the dynamic set. The new tracks, particularly album and set opener “Goodbye Divinity” and “Asphyxiation” lead the way while standouts like the stunning “Alive” and “God of the Sun” from the debut add muscle to the night. The stellar musicianship of this band is always on full display as each member has plenty of spots throughout the night to showcase their talents.
The emotional peak of the night comes with the new song “Desolate July”. Frontman Soto gives a stirring introduction as he talks about the song’s inspiration, his former bandmate the late, great David Z. Soto also now dedicates the song Kobe Bryant, another recent tragic loss and someone Soto admired greatly. The January loss of Rush drummer Neil Peart is also recognized throughout the night as Soto and Portnoy each wore Rush shirts and the new song “Wither to Black” featured a snippet of the Rush classic “Tom Sawyer”. Soto also dedicated “Lost in Oblivion” to “the professor”.
The night didn’t run completely smooth, however. During the MMXX epic closing track “New World Today” a drunken fan made his way on stage and sat on Portnoy’s drum riser before security could reach him. The entire band was taken by surprise as Soto stopped singing and Portnoy, a friend of Dimebag Darrell who lost his life in such an incident, flew into a rage, yelling at security as the song played on, but like true professionals, the band did play on and continued the song.
After the show, Soto wasn’t totally pleased with the band’s performance, citing the high level of performance over the previous shows, but the Boston crowd that packed the Paradise on a Wednesday night seemed to disagree with his take. The crowd was into every note and genuinely didn’t want the night to end.
Sons of Apollo show on this record and tour that they are much more than just a collection of talent. While each member is the absolute top of their chosen discipline the sum is so much more than the addition of its parts. This is in no way a vanity project for its members, this a band that has gelled and feeds off of one another creating some of the most dynamic music on the progressive hard rock scene today.
Fall to Ascend
Signs of the Time
Wither to Black
(with ‘Tom Sawyer’ by Rush snippet)
Lost in Oblivion
King of Delusion
New World Today
God of the Sun
(Deep Purple cover) (with Tony MacAlpine)