It was a night of wild guitar heroics as prog-rock legends plus hard rock virtuoso guitarists performed at the legendary Roxy Theatre on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood, California. On January 25, 2020, Sons of Apollo, the juggernaut prog-rock supergroup, introduced several songs from their just-released album MMXX (Twenty Twenty) along with a few tracks from their 2017 debut Psychotic Symphony. Guitar wizards Chris Schuermann and Tony MacAlpine led each of their bands prior to the Sons of Apollo performance.
The sold-out show was filled with faithful fans who ate up every guitar riff, bassline, organ solo and drumbeat. SCHIERMANN opened with a short, intense, instrumental set. They were followed by MacAlpine and his band. MacAlpine traded solos with his second guitarist but justifiably held the spotlight with some incredible fretwork.
The highly anticipated Sons of Apollo set was only their third show since releasing MMXX on January 17. With a deep prog and hard rock pedigree, the five-piece band is launching an extensive world tour in support of the new album. Dream Theater alums Mike Portnoy on drums and Derek Sherinian on keyboards are joined by Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (ex-Guns N’ Roses) on guitar, Billy Sheehan (The Winery Dogs, Mr. Big) on bass and Jeff Scott Soto (ex-Journey, ex-Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force) on vocals.
Even Portnoy joked about the night’s show when he said, “there is more noodling going on in here than at a ramen restaurant.” The band opened with the first track off their new album called “Goodbye Divinity.” Psychotic Symphony’s “Sign of the Times” followed. It did not take long for the band to pay tribute to the recently departed and universally admired Rush drummer Neil Peart. Halfway through another new song called “Wither To Black,” the band segued into Rush’s “Tom Sawyer,” with Thal doing his best Geddy Lee impression and Portnoy pounding the skins in memory of Peart.
The band blasted through “Asphyxiation” from MMXX and “Labyrinth” from Psychotic Symphony before all of the musicians except Sheehan left the stage. With the spotlight on him and his double bass, Sheehan proceeded to amaze the audience with his technical prowess. The rest of the band came back out for MMXX’s “Lost in Oblivion” that featured a thunderous drum solo by Portnoy. Jeff Scott Soto dedicated “Desolate July” to a good friend of the band, David Z (bassist from Adrenaline Mob and Trans-Siberian Orchestra) who died tragically in 2017. The slow, melancholy opening organ and guitar notes transitioned into sonic overload as Soto belted out the lyrics and the crowd applauded loudly.
Another new song, “King of Delusion,” kept the crowd amped up before Soto got somber again when he talked about the recent death of Peart. He dedicated “Alive” from Psychotic Symphony to the beloved drummer and lyricist. “New World Today” from MMXX followed with a slowly building Thal intro that led into hard rocking beats. Sheehan, Thal and Sherinian all took fantastic solos during the song.
Everyone except Sherinian left the stage at the conclusion of “New World Today.” While under a blue spotlight, he played a melodic solo called “Figaro’s Whore” from Psychotic Symphony. The rest of the band came back out for the set-ending “God of the Sun,” also from Psychotic Symphony. The crowd roared for more as the guys left the stage.
It was only a short wait as they came back out for a two-song encore. They brought out Tony MacAlpine to join them on a cover of Deep Purple’s “Burn” and finished the amazing show with “Coming Home” from Psychotic Symphony. The songs that ended the show encapsulated the immense talent of every band member. It was a night to remember.
Live photos courtesy of Andy J. Gordon ©2020.