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Sons Of Apollo 
The Forge - Joliet, IL
February 18, 2018



It just doesn’t seem fair.
There are bands in garages that rehearse every day like it’s a religion. There are national and international touring bands playing night after night, becoming tight musical units. All of those hardworking bands have the ability to sound great when they play. I know, I’ve seen tens of thousands of concerts and talented bands in my time. But, I can honestly say, I have never witnessed anything on this level. Those who know my history know that I’ve seen some classic shows - ELP in their prime, the Pink Floyd Animals tour, Iron Maiden dozens of times, Dio, Dream Theater, and so on. This performance from Sons Of Apollo at a small club in Joliet, Illinois was on a whole different level.

Welcome to the upper echelon.


Going into the show I knew who I was going to see, and I was well aware of their history of excellence. I went in expecting to hear guys who are among the best in the world at their positions, and that’s exactly what I got. I could go on about intricate details about Portnoy’s precision drumming and huge sound, or revel in Sheehan’s inhuman ability on bass and so on, but most fans know how great each of these guys are already. What I want to tell you about is how great they are together. 

As the band took the stage to “God Of The Sun,” the opening track on their 2017 debut album Psychotic Symphony, it was something like watching scientists getting a clean and highly polished rocket ready for launch. Sheehan on one side, guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal on the other, both strapped with double neck guitars. Keyboardist Derek Sherinian was nestled tightly in his cockpit of keys, and Portnoy sitting high atop his throne surrounded by gleaming chrome  and resonant, decorated cylinders. You could feel the launch happening. I swear the venue moved at one point. As vocalist Jeff Scott Soto captained the ship with his large muscular frame, glistening locks, and his booming voice it was clear that we would be leaving Earth for a while.



As the band laid down some of the most complex music in the world today, you could see them communicating visually. Eyes were moving around the stage as they seamlessly and effortlessly fit all the moving musical parts together. Portnoy sat high on his kit, which was offset to the right side of the stage, and comfortably watched as his cohorts slayed the crowd. Sheehan never stopped smiling as he used and abused both necks of his unique bass. With both necks fitted with four strings, I’m not quite sure what the difference is between the two, but I can tell you that his sound is unparalleled. (And bravo to the sound booth for making it so we heard every note.) Bumblefoot impresses me more every time I see him play. This set was extremely challenging for a guitar player, but he just slapped it around and made it his bitch (you could say). And the quiet man behind the keys made his presence known by simply playing with a level of perfection. Sherinian also offered the crowd a tremendous solo complete with eerie red lights and thick smoke to set the mood. The band was having a good time and was comfortable and confident as a unit. Here’s the real kicker to this whole thing, though. I think it’s the guy that never touches an instrument that pushes this show over the top. 



Jeff Scott Soto is just a beast. He is an absolute perfect fit for these songs, and he is the perfect ringleader to the crazy circus of genius that surrounds him. He is both the engine and the caboose of a high speed train that could very easily get derailed by their skill and expertise. He’s big and bold not only in stature, but in pride and presence. A singer could very easily be intimidated and enveloped by this band, but Soto reaches into your chest and holds your heart in his hands throughout the show. Even on the instrumental runs it felt as if he was contributing, even when he left the stage. That’s a power that I’ve never really encountered before.

   

Another thing that made this a concert to remember was the setlist. It was a set of songs that included highly complex progressive pieces, including two Dream Theater tracks, but it also turned into a wild and fun rock and roll show. Hearing Soto looping his vocals and harmonizing with himself on the vocal canon from Queen’s “The Prophet's Song” was absolutely stunning, and hearing him transform into Freddie Mercury for an astonishing version of “Save Me” was unforgettable as well. Did I say he didn’t have an instrument? Oops.

After the band closed their set with the serious progressive complexity of Dream Theater’s “Lines In The Sand,” the band came back out and brought the fun, rock and roll stuff to a climax with a killer version of Van Halen’s “And The Cradle Will Rock…”. Like some kind of magic show, the band started the song on stage while Soto started singing from among the general admission crowd on the main floor. As he slowly weaved through crazed fans, he sang yet another song with power and accuracy. The band closed the show with their single, “Coming Home,” and they were still firing on all cylinders. 



We never did land. The band stopped playing, left the stage and moved on to their next launch, but I never felt the wheels hit the ground. It’s been a few days and I’m still floating somewhere out in that crazy musical utopia, and that’s the way it should be. 


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SETLIST
God of the Sun
Signs of the Time
Figaro's Whore
Divine Addiction
Just Let Me Breathe (Dream Theater cover)
Labyrinth
(Bass Solo)
Lost in Oblivion
The Prophet's Song / Save Me (Queen cover)
Alive
The Pink Panther Theme (Henry Mancini cover)
Opus Maximus
(Keyboard Solo)
Lines in the Sand (Dream Theater cover)

Encore

And the Cradle Will Rock... (Van Halen cover)
Coming Home
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