It’s not every day that you get to witness a powerhouse band quite as talented as Sons Of Apollo. While this may sound like hero worship, you can hardly ignore the wealth of experience and musical ability possessed by these five men. And while I’ve had the pleasure of seeing two of the five perform with previous bands, I knew that I had to make my way to the Howard Theatre in Washington D.C. to catch their final North American tour date. And that’s just what I did on May 20th, 2018, where I got to see Portnoy, Sherinian, Sheehan, Thal, and Soto combine forces to wow an energetic group of fans.
Unlike most shows I see, all of the bands I saw that night were on tour together, and thus had developed not only a bond, but had the benefit of solidifying their light show. If it’s one thing a photographer likes, it’s a band with a great lighting technician! And what a great job that person did, highlighting the explosive antics of the Venezuelan-born, L.A.-based hard rock band, Sifting. I was impressed from the opening chord, as frontman Eduardo O Gil bounced around with endless energy, and guitarist Richard Garcia shredded up and down the fretboard in his own, more solemn, manner. Bassist, Wins Jarquin, and drummer, Joey Aguirre, exuded enthusiasm the entire set, and managed to hold things down while staying light on their feet.
Two Venezuelan-born, L.A.-based bands on the same North American tour?! What are the odds? Felix Martin and his band are a unique bunch. Felix plays a double fretboard guitar, combined to become a single 14- or 16-string guitar (he has two versions) somewhat resembling a chapman stick. The band deals out instrumental music that ranges from songs that sound piano-esque, to funky slap-bass, to incredible heavy technical guitar tunes. The music reminds me a bit of Scale The Summit and The Fine Constant, two other acts I had the pleasure of seeing last year, and I’d highly recommend checking all of these bands out if any of this peaks your interest. I was honestly a little surprised at their musical pairing at this concert based on their style of music, but everyone loved what they heard, which is the important part. I don’t suppose it hurt that most of Sons Of Apollo emerged from the green room during the last song, dancing around the stage like men possessed, showing just how much fun this bunch had together on the road.
Psychotic Symphony was one of my top albums of 2017. That isn’t something that often happens for me with debut albums, regardless of how seasoned the musicians. But whereas other supergroups stun the headlines with their names and then deliver merely ‘okay’ records, Sons Of Apollo got together and knocked it out of the park. I was beyond stoked to see this material live, and I was not disappointed. I will warn you, however, that the best place might not be right up front. I spent the first half of their set in the second row, first shooting photos around peoples’ heads and then enjoying the show, but the best audio was to be found further back, where the bass notes of low-end maestro, Billy Sheehan, began to allow other instruments to join him on more equal footing. But I neither fault Sheehan nor the sound tech for this; Sheehan’s power is simply too much to be contained, which is probably why he had his own 5+ minute bass solo before the show was even half over – they just had to wear him down!
In addition to the entire album, we also were treated to some covers, including Dream Theater, Queen, and Van Halen. As could be expected, the Dream Theater material was pulled from the Falling Into Infinity days that Portnoy and Sherinian shared. Meanwhile, Soto’s solo portion resulted in Freddie Mercury-inspired audience participation that fed into “The Prophet’s Song,” followed by a duet with Bumblefoot for a rendition of “Save Me,” which flowed beautifully into their own song, “Alive.”
While I felt the attendance was a little lacking (thanks to it being a Sunday night, immediately following a Nationals baseball game), Jeff Scott Soto reminded us throughout the night that we were “small, but mighty.” There was so much excitement emanating from the crowd that I didn’t even realize that we weren’t a full theater until I left my spot in the front to join my wife back by the soundboard. To Sons Of Apollo’s credit – Soto’s comment aside – never once did they give me any doubt that they were playing to anything less than a full house. That’s the kind of showmen they are: giving 100% regardless of there are 100 or 10,000 fans. They’re beginning their European tour in June, so now is the time to pick up the album, Psychotic Symphony, crank it, and then prepare for when these five musical marvels reach your neck of the woods.