When a band’s name proclaims its members to be demigods, the musicians must be either filled with hubris or incredibly good.
In the case of US rock supergroup “Sons of Apollo,” it appears to be the latter. The five band members put on a spectacular show Wednesday night in Tel Aviv, coming close with their music to the divine.
And for Greek gods, they were also very Jewish.
“Mah nishtana halaila hazeh?” drummer Mike Portnoy asked the packed crowd at Tel Aviv’s Barby Club, referring to the traditional Passover Seder question “why is this night different from all other nights?”
“That’s all I remember from Hebrew school. I’m a bad Jew. I put the ‘ish’ into ‘Jewish.'”
On stage, the “Sons of Apollo” were like a reincarnation of all the best bits of the 70s prog rock bands, with the technical brilliance of players at the peak of their craft.
Each song lasted about 15 minutes and included several solos. By the second song, vocalist Jeff Scott Soto had already draped himself in an Israeli flag and told everyone how much he loved it in this country.
“This is my first time in Israel,” he explained. “We had the day off today to see the sites but I want to spend another week here.”
Birthday boy and guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal is the other Jewish member of the band; as Soto proudly explained, “40 percent of this band is Jewish.” And Thal gamely played along as the packed crowd sang “Yom huledet sameah,” or happy birthday in Hebrew.
“I remember it from my days in Hebrew school,” he said.
“I got expelled from Hebrew school,” Portnoy piped up.
The band is touring in support of its debut album “Psychotic Symphony.”
Not only is the band named after the Greek god of music, but the theme is continued with songs on the album (which sounded even better live in concert) including “God of the Sun” and “Divine Addiction.”
Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal plays Hatikva in Tel Aviv.Sons of Apollo
Posted by David Sedley on Thursday, 27 September 2018
Both Thal and bassist Billy Sheehan played double-necked instruments, keyboardist Derek Sherinian had a classic Hammond organ and three other keyboards, and Portnoy had an enormous drum kit with a dozen cymbals and countless drums. And they all seem to have about at least 10 fingers on each hand, seemingly defying nature as they played one impossible thing after another for two hours straight.
“Shalom aleichem my people,” Thal said, before beginning his solo spot by playing Israel’s national anthem “Hatikva” with the entire crowd joining in.
At a master class Thal held on Tuesday night for a couple of dozen guitar aficionados he explained that the hardest thing for a guitarist to do is to play just one note. And he proved that during the concert by seemingly playing 1,000 notes a minute, under, over and around the neck — sticking his pick to his forehead while he was double-handed tapping — and Sheehan matched him note for note every step of the way.
The band’s encore was a cover of a well-known Van Halen song, re-titled as “And the dreidel will rock.”
Local band “Subterranean Masquerade,” a hyperactive prog rock band that employs lots of harmonic minor scales to prove its Middle Eastern origins, opened for “Sons of Apollo” with a short set, proving that Israelis can rock with the best of them.
So are “Sons of Apollo” really demigods? Probably not. But their sheer skill and musicality shows the absolute pinnacle of what mortals can achieve.