SONS OF APOLLO / SCHIERMANN - Garage, Glasgow 30.09.18

There are supergroups cropping up in various quarters these days and the chance to hear high- end artists performing together is pretty special. The attraction to artists is real too as performers yearn for the opportunity to step away from their comfort zones to develop as musicians or songwriters.

SONS OF APOLLO must surely be one of the most accomplished supergroups travelling the globe these days. Their album ‘Psychotic Symphony’ was released in 2017 and saw them tour around the world and that journey continues tonight with their arrival in Glasgow.  It wasn’t too long ago when the band played a Scottish show but this clearly hasn’t dented ticket sales at the Garage as the venue is full to the brim.

Supporting such a band must be daunting if not difficult but SCHIERMANN provide a reassuring quality as the opening act tonight. SCHIERMANN takes their name from guitarist and songwriter Chris who is joined on stage tonight by Matt Ball (bass) and Arnaud Verrier (drums). Schiermann himself is best described as a virtuoso but his band are also technically brilliant (and have to be) given the complexity of his work.
There is no chat or small talk as the band begin their set. Instead, they launch full force into a set of mesmerising musicianship with only a backing track to provide some layered synth and the odd bell and whistle. Schiermann is no 4/4 songwriter, instead, creating melodies underpinned by technically unfathomable rhythms. There are influences in his work if you listen hard but they are subtle. I heard Van Halen and Malmsteen but the work is entirely original and never lazy.

The stand out track of the night, ‘Flexious’, from SCHIERMANN’s solo album is a hypnotic, atmospheric track that features a clean picked guitar intro and syncopated drums that build slowly and carefully to an altogether more powerful beast. There is no ‘shred’ - instead, the guitar work is tasteful and uses the space without haste or waste. Wonderful.
When you see a group of true musicians working in unison to such high quality it is a pleasure and tonight is one such experience. There was no stage show, no stage set and no reliance on visual stimulus because frankly there was no need. This three piece has created a short set of well-constructed tracks that showcase what can be achieved without a vocalist and the comfort blanket of lyrics.

Chris Schiermann doesn’t say much onstage and lets his music do the talking but you can discover what makes him tick here -




The prospect of a two hour set tonight is intriguing as SONS OF APOLLO have only one album to draw from. Chatting with keyboard legend Derek Sherinian before the show - we learn that they will draw from DREAM THEATER’s catalogue and of course play solo spots to satisfy even the hungriest muso in the room.
Mike Portnoy (drums), Derek Sherinian (keys), Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal (guitar), Billy Sheehan (bass) and Jeff Scott Soto (vocals) have a pedigree that most rock fans will be familiar with. Their material is progressive but darker than much of there individual material and is underpinned with a heavy foundation that would test even the most accomplished musician be they guitarist, drummer or pianist.

Tonight’s show opens with an old-school-lights-off and intro tape excitement-build before the band step onstage. Thal’s twin-necked guitar with LED lights is a slice of cool and the house strobe lights increase the heart rate before the band begin their performance. Opening track ‘God of the Sun’, which is also the album opener, is bombastic and complex and in no way a simple loosener for the band. These guys don’t do things by half and the set never fades as they plough on with apparent ease.
The band are as entertaining to watch as they are fulfilling to hear with each being entirely comfortable in the limelight. Portnoy is mesmerising to watch as sticks are thrown, caught and occasionally banged off his own head but his percussion has many standing open-mouthed. Sheehan’s legacy with Mr Big and Dave Lee Roth is the stuff of legend but his solo tonight is probably the only bass solo I’ve seen that works. The band stepped off stage as he plays and that adds to the spectacle and I’m certain there aren’t many who could pull that off. Stopping midway to ask the engineer to turn him down a touch to avoid feedback, he is truly a unique talent and I may put my own bass in the attic when I get home.

Jeff Scott Soto takes a solo spot too and in Freddie Mercury style takes the crowd along for the ride with a call and return that he jokingly claims is fuelled by Jagermeister. It clearly isn’t as his performance of Queen’s ‘Prophet Song’ is divine and is dedicated to the memory of Mercury. If this was ever going to be topped, it would only be Bumblefoot’s rendition of the Pink Panther theme. Henry Mancini would surely approve were he with us today.

Not to be upstaged, Sherinian’s keyboard solo blends orchestrated parts that remind of early Rainbow, with a rendition of Van Halen’s ‘Eruption’ that is eerily close to the original guitar version. Sherinian strikes a formidable character onstage and I swore I saw a pout or two.

This has been an honour and a privilege to hear each of the band display their wares but importantly, the sum of the individuals is most impressive. The show reaches its conclusion with Van Halen’s ‘And the Cradle Will Rock’ with Soto in the crowd, singing whilst high-fiving and posing for photos with fans. This cover leads to the final track of the night ‘Coming Home’ - an upbeat, hard rocking track that has the crowd singing along. Soto steps away from the mic for a moment for some more call and return and the power of his voice carries across the crowd much to the delight of those gathered for his sermon. As the final notes are delivered, the band take their applause and it’s rapturous to say the least. With bows taken and thank-yous made, the band step into the darkness and the chat in the audience is around what might be next.

The band have a busy schedule and a recent show in the Roman Theater, Plovdiv, Bulgaria saw them play with an orchestra - the show being filmed for a DVD release in 2019. As for the future, Sherinian was quick to clarify his wish that the band is something the members want to develop further so it may be we will have SONS OF APOLLO for a good while yet.

Budding musicians may wish to look away for fear of losing their ambitions but everyone else can check out the band here -




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