It was a busy week in Belfast with gigs from Tremonti and Myles Kennedy either side of tonight’s show and this may have resulted in fewer people stepping in from the sunshine. There was only a handful of people at the barrier when support band Jay Wud took to the stage.
The Dubai-based band were tightly packed onto the stage as the covered drum kit of Mike Portnoy loomed behind them. Their songs were a slightly mixed bag, some hard rock tracks and some more indie/alternative sounding songs. A stand out track for me was “Shine your Light” which had some great backing vocals that made it sound much richer. The band finished off with an instrumental song, maybe preparing us all for the musicianship that was to come.
The venue darkened and strobes started to flicker to signal it was time for supergroup Sons of Apollo. The black cover was dramatically pulled from the monolithic drum kit just as Mike Portnoy made his entrance. One by one the other members came on stage to rapturous applause. Last but not least was Jeff Scott Soto and the band broke into “God of the Sun” and “Signs of the Time” from the latest album Psychotic Symphony. Immediately it was clear that this was no ordinary gig, this was five extremely talented musicians who were also experienced entertainers. Soto in particular is a superb showman and vocalist. It has been at least 15 years since I last saw him live and his voice remains in top form.
Taking a break from the original material they moved into a cover of Dream Theater’s “Just let me Breathe”. It was during this song that I first noticed that Bumblefoot’s guitar was getting a little lost amongst the keyboards and bass, which was a shame as this was otherwise a fantastic song.
Jeff Scott Soto encouraged the crowd to air guitar and air drum along to “Labyrinth”, but advised not to try to play air bass along with Billy Sheehan and during the bass solo that followed it was easy to see why – Sheehan’s fingers were just a blur on the twin necks of his bass guitar.
Following this it was Jeff’s turn to showcase his vocal talents (perhaps feeling good after the Guinness he had requested) as he sang a beautiful rendition of “Save Me” by Queen which he dedicated to Freddie Mercury and Vinnie Paul, accompanied by Bumblefoot on guitar.
There was then an opportunity for Jeff to rest his voice as the instrumental section kicked off with the “Theme from the Pink Panther” moving into “Opus Maximus”, “Figaro’s Whore” and ending with a keyboard solo from Derek Sherinian. I found this part of the night didn’t hold my attention just as much and was glad to see Jeff return to the stage for the cover of “Lines in the Sand”. The five musical legends left the stage briefly only to return with the amazing “Coming Home” which saw Jeff mingle with the crowd.
Overall a fantastic night and the murmur among the crowd was a definite contender for gig of the year!
Photos by Exposing Shadows Photography