At The Arcada Theatre, St. Charles, IL, USA, January 31, 2020

SONS OF APOLLO (Live at The Arcada Theatre, St. Charles, IL, USA, January 31, 2020)
Photo: Scott Jeslis

While Chicago, Illinois (USA) is having a non-typical, mild winter this year there was nothing “typical” or “mild” about the performances that took place on January 31st at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, Illinois! Owner Ron Onesti always addresses the crowd onstage before the main acts play, and tonight was no exception. Onesti made it known that tonight was drummer Mike Portnoy’s fourth appearance at the Arcada Theatre. He suggested that maybe at this point it should be called the “Portnoy Theatre” which resulted in crowd applause. The Arcada currently seats roughly around 1,000 people and tonight the theatre was nearly sold out. Eager fans were here to watch an evening with perhaps one of the greatest Progressive Metal “supergroups” of all time in the Sons Of Apollo!

Tony MacAlpine Band

Before the “Sons” would grace the stage tonight, fans who arrived on time were treated to an electrifying set by neo-classical guitar shredder Tony MacAlpine. It’s great to see Tony back touring after his bout with colon cancer years ago. Opening with “The Stranger” and playing many of his shred classics, including “Tears Of Sahara”,  tonight this crowd saw him play with a certain ferocity and precision. As a friend put it, “it was like he was playing for his life”.

He also showed great flexibility in a live setting by handling not only his guitar parts but any keyboard needs as well. On several occasions playing both at once! His current touring band seemed to be a younger group of guys rounding out his stage set with bass, drums and a second guitarist. Showing that he can share the stage, this second guitarist was allowed some lead time as well in spots where musicians like George Lynch had performed on the album.

Sons Of Apollo

Billy & Mike, 1-31-2020, St. Charles, Illinois
Photo: Scott Jeslis

There aren’t many words to describe tonight’s performance by the supergroup Sons Of Apollo that would do them justice. A few that come to mind are “masterful”, “precise”, “energetic” and “commanding”! If you’re not already familiar with the band they have two studio albums and one live album currently available. The band is comprised of drummer Mike Portnoy, bassist Billy Sheehan, vocalist Jeff Scott Soto, guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal and keyboardist Derek Sherinian!

Playing over two hours Sons Of Apollo played most of both studio albums including the sixteen-minute opus, “New World Today” off their current MMXX album. Opening with the track “Goodbye Divinity”, also off of MMX,  the band had the almost full-capacity crowd on their feet where the majority of fans stayed the rest of the night.

Jeff Scott Soto 1-31-2020 St. Charles, Illinois
Photo: Scott Jeslis

This group of guys has been around a long time but they seemed to not show any signs of ageing. They used the stage to it’s fullest and kept lively afoot. The stage setup itself was a bit unique. Drummer, Mike Portnoy, was not positioned centre stage in the back, as most bands do, but instead was positioned off to the right. Keyboardist Derek Sherinian was positioned opposite on the left proving that it was an equal team effort.

Sons Of Apollo, Masterful And Firing On All Cylinders

Everyone seemed like they were having a fun time, especially vocalist Jeff Scott Soto who even mentioned how much of a blast it was touring and working with these guys on a second album. Jeff commanded the stage, hit the highs when needed and kept the crowd engaged. He’s come a long way since his early days with Malmsteen and tonight he proved why he’s still one of the top-notch Hard Rock / Metal vocalists around.

Mike Portnoy was spot on with his rapid snare, high-hat, double bass progressions while at the same time being completely relaxed. Portnoy wasn’t as visually thrashing as he is in some of the videos but it didn’t matter. He still plays with a certain snap and clarity that is just a joy to witness.

Sons Of Apollo 1-31-2020 St. Charles, Illinois
Photo: Scott Jeslis

Billy Sheehan was entertaining as usual with him and keyboardist Derek Sherinian having the only two “real” solo spotlights during tonight’s set. It was entertaining to hear Derek play some “Van Halen licks”, especially “Spanish Fly”, during his solo spot proving that anything a guitarist can do he can perhaps do.

Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal was spot on as well playing a double-neck guitar all night. The upper neck was fretless and mirrored which seemed to be Ron’s happy place. Billy also sported his double-neck all night as well. It was refreshing not to see a dozen guitar changes during a show!

Sons Of Apollo 1-31-2020
Photo: Scott Jeslis

During tonight’s set, the boys even managed to sneak in a tribute to the passing of Rush drummer Neil Peart. With Soto donning a Rush tee-shirt, he and the guys, snuck in several bars of “Tom Sawyer”, by Rush, into their rendition of one of their new tracks, “Wither To Black”.

The only time the band took it down a notch was to play new track “Desolate July”, written in honour of the tragic passing of Adrenaline Mob’s David Z. back in 2017. Tonight the track was also dedicated to another tragedy that took NBA star Kobe Byrant away from us. While the track might be considered a ballad it still has enough bottom end and teeth to not be considered a “bathroom break” moment!

All Things Must End

Ending the night was an energetic rendition of Deep Purple’s “Burn” that saw Tony MacAlpine return to the stage to play with the guys on this track. This was followed by “Coming Home” where they got the crowd actively involved. Back-up vocal duties all night were handled by Thal and Portnoy with Thal showing some vocal chops during the “Tom Sawyer” and “Burn” tributes.

When all was said and done, Sons Of Apollo put on a masterful show with a setlist that includes some of the best Progressive Metal around. It’s a safe bet to argue that these guys are probably heavier than the last couple of albums by a former, and beloved Progressive Metal band, that Portnoy and Sherinian were last together in!

For the full setlist visit here!


  • Scott Jeslis

    Scott is one of the partners at Metal Express Radio. He handles a lot of Metal Express Radio's public relations, screening of new music and radio scheduling. On occasion, he also does reviews and interviews. He has been a proud member of the Metal Express Radio crew since 2004.

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