Sons of Apollo - LIVE: Concert Hall, Motherwell 2018

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Psychotic Symphony Tour
July 2 (21:30 - 23:10)
Capacity 1000

When prog rock super group Sons of Apollo announced a show in Motherwell Concert Hall, there was much confusion and bewilderment amongst prog fans in Scotland. The general consensus seemed to be why? And “where?”. Rock shows are far from common in towns touching the outskirts of Glasgow, they're typically be in the city itself.

On arrival the building from the outside looks like a council office building. The early arrivals were standing around in the sun asking each other if they had ever been to a gig anywhere in Motherwell, never mind the Concert Hall specifically. There was an air of confusion, but also excitement at seeing these fine musicians and the realisation of a first shared experience. A metal concert in this west coast town featuring such big names is basically unheard of.

Inside, the hall itself looks like a school gymnasium up to the raised temporary seating area, and past that a very good size stage reveals itself, with what looks like a state of the art sound system. When the music started, that proved to be the case. Both the headliners and supports had excellent sound, where every instrument could be heard along with the vocals.

First up were a Scottish outfit from West Lothian called The King Lot, who are more of an AOR band. They have changed guitarists and beefed up their sound, and by so doing stepped up a gear. They have good songs and a fine singer, but now they also have some power.There new material and revitalised delivery is very impressive. Also on the bill from Dubai (including members from Lebanon, Serbia, Latvia and USA) were Jay Wud. They played only songs from their latest album, so are obviously trying to make the breakthrough on it. They have elements of prog, but are also quite hard rocking and lively, with some fine guitar work going on.

Sons of Apollo came onstage around 9:20 to a fired up crowd who seemed desperate to welcome them instantly. The set of course focused around their debut album, from which they played all nine songs. Some were played reasonably straight, but others seemed to have some jamming and improvisation added to them - as would be expected, given who the members of the band are. At times they seemed to be egging each other on to more intense playing, or sometimes heading into territories where the rest of the band had to chase to keep up. On some of those occasions it looked like it could all fall apart, but each time they seemed to save it right on the edge, whilst smiling at each other, knowing the challenge. Both the instrumental Opus Maximus and Lost In Oblivion were so frenetic at times that it was almost seat of the pants stuff.

Like the album, the gig never went too far over into total self-indulgence, with enough of the songs having strong choruses which the decent sized crowd were more than happy to join in. It also helped to have such a powerful and visual singer in Jeff Scott Soto, who looked like he was conducting an orchestra at times or at least playing imaginary instruments. He encouraged everyone before Labyrinth to air guitar drum and keyboard, but not to bother trying the bass as it was Billy Sheehan and that it would be crazy to even try go there. Signs of The Times had some lovely solos from both Derek Sherinian on the keys and Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal on guitar. The latter surprised just about everybody with some of his vocals too. He has a terrific voice especially in the higher registers. His solo on Alive was particularly beautiful.

There were some covers too, including two Dream Theater songs from Falling Into Infinity which Sherinian featured on, along with of course drummer Mike Portnoy. Just Let Me Breathe seemed much heavier than the original, and Lines In The Sand not too dissimilar apart from the longer keyboard intro.

Most of the band had solo spots as well, with both Billy and Derek doing lengthy workouts. Strangely neither Ron or Portnoy had solos outside of in the songs themselves, although Thal did add some flourishes to a rendition of the them from 'Pink Panther', just as he used to in Guns N' Roses. It was Jeff however, who produced the absolute highlight of the evening when he was left on his own to do the choral section of Queen's The Prophet Song, leading into him and Ron playing and singing the same band's classic Save Me. The way he layered his own voice with loops and effects for the first was jaw dropping. As for the latter, he poured so much of himself into it you could feel his emotion. The crowd certainly played their parts on the chorus (as well as the Freddie Mercury opening singalong where they were tested into holding notes, playing with notes and generally impressing Jeff as well).

There was some good-natured banter and general onstage shenanigans to make the evening even more fun. Between Jeff ending up beside the kit with Mike and swapping microphones around, taking swinging one over the drum kit, leaving Mike having to get into an arm lock to sing into the mike Jeff was using, Jeff dancing erotically towards Billy as he tried to get away, and Ron threatening to take out the drum kit with his guitar, to Mike's amusement amongst other moments, it was entertaining all round.

When the night ended everyone seemed to have had a great time with most not only raving about the performance but also how good the venue was. With the sad demise of one of Glasgow's best live venues in the ABC due to the fire from the art school behind it, a number of folk felt that maybe this could take the place as a good mid-sized venue in the Glasgow area. If they can work out ways to fit in with bus and train timetables transport wise, it could prove to be a regular concert venue.

Setlist: God of The Sun / Signs Of The Time / Divine Addiction / Just Let Me Breathe / Labyrinth / Bass Solo / Lost In Oblivion / The Prophet Song/Save Me / Alive / Pink Panther Theme / Opus Maximus / Figaro's Whore / Keyboard Solo / Lines In The Sand // Coming Home

Written by Tom Cornell
More: 2018, Gigs, Progressive, , ,

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