During a 2016 Security project show at Cleveland’s Beachland Ballroom, someone in the small disco audience reacted to the band’s adventurous renditions of Peter Gabriel’s solo music with wild enthusiasm. Her enthusiastic applause and thunderous shouts of approval between songs broke through the cheers of the rest of the audience. And Project drummer Jerry Marotta couldn’t help but notice.
“I would like to have some of whatever that guy over there got,” he said with a laugh. And he was actually inspired, not bored at all. “All I can say, mate, is keep it up!”
From there, the band went through their haunting performance of the progressive rock pioneer’s music which included a lot non-commercial solo songs (“Shock the Monkey,” where were you?), a few mid-70s Genesis tracks, plus a few non-PG offerings with similar attitude and artistic vibes. Still, the emotional effect was enough to make any serious PG fan want to get their voices blasted.
In early May, Marotta and her one-woman, four-man band, Security Project, dedicated to revisiting Gabriel’s early solo years (1977-1986), will return to live performance for the first time in over two years. with a short, late spring tour of the US East Coast.
Beginning with a sold-out Daryl’s House Club concert on May 5 in Pawling, New York, the project will kick off a 12-date mini-tour ending at the end of the month in Annapolis, Maryland on May 20. Even for a limited geographical area, it’s a pretty steep sprint. But, as you’ll find out if you read on from here, you really should try to catch them if you can.
Founded in 2012 by Marotta and after trying out a few lead singers through 2016, Security Project have honed their approach with many smaller regional tours like this one. Plus, they’ve released a handful of live EPs that show just how much they’ve come up with their PG renditions over time.
The band’s motto is “Expect the Unexpected”, and since 2016 – when vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Happy Rhodes joined as lead vocalist – SP is better equipped than ever to deliver on that promise. Not only do the band deliver stylized versions of Gabriel’s music, but also – thanks to Rhodes’ highly versatile vocals – they now round out the show with songs from art-rock PG traveler Kate Bush, and even Rhodes herself. So, unlike their previous versions, Security Project is now more than only “The Peter Gabriel Show.”
As a veteran American alt/folk/art pop singer-songwriter, Rhodes released numerous independent recordings between the mid-80s and late-90s. Then, unfortunately, his star began to fade. disappear from public view in the early 2000s, eventually leading him to retire from music. But his voice left a lasting impression on some key players, it seems.
About this voice: By all accounts, Rhodes’ most notable feature is his astonishing four-octave vocal range. This ability has earned her many favorable comparisons with singers such as Tori Amos and the enigmatic Mrs. Bush, whose own dramatic soprano range Rhodes easily emulates. However, this range also offers him many assets to interpret the songs of the male singer Gabriel. His idiosyncratic vocal style could also be all over the map, often in the same song. No problem for the right singer, right?
Still, matching Rhodes’ voice with Security Project and the vocal demands of Gabriel’s music was not an obvious first choice for Marotta and the band. She practically came to them through the back door. Two previous male vocalists had both seemed more than enough to achieve the classic “Peter” voice, but had moved on. So with a tour scheduled for fall 2016 and an unexpected vacancy in the main vocal department, the band had to find someone new – but Well – and quick. And, “luckily,” the project quickly ended up with a strong “female lead” in the process.
” A singer ? Sing Gabriel songs? Who is it thunk Well, remembering her from a previous musical hookup, SP member Trey Gunn did. It turns out that Rhodes’ musician husband Bob Muller had once played drums in the Additionally, Marotta had also provided drums on several of his 1990s recordings.These threads all came together when Gunn made his timely call to Rhodes.
Quickly overcoming preconceived notions of what a singer of Gabriel songs should sound like, Rhodes stepped straight into the role of emcee on this first fall 2016 tour. She impressively delivered a range of songs that ticked all the boxes for the most demanding PG. fans, including “No Self Control”, “Lay Your Hands on Me”, “I Don’t Remember”, “San Jacinto”, “I Have the Touch”, and “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway”.
Much like Gabriel himself, she channeled all the alienation, melancholy, elevation and sometimes dark humor in these songs. But above all, she seemed surprisingly comfortable with the really “Dark Stuff” – Gabriel’s deep-voiced dramas about stalkers, murderers, political prisoners and the mentally ill. It was perhaps his anguished, throbbing vocals on the darkest of all Gabriel songs – the ritualistic Jungian-tribal epic “The Rhythm of Heat” – that removed any lingering doubt about his cover of the “front of sea” of the PG.
Marotta and the other veteran musicians on the project have their own long resumes of musical street cred — sometimes prog, but again, not as much as one might think. Much of that prog rep comes from Marotta’s status as a longtime Gabriel sideman and Gunn’s long and strong association with Robert Fripp and King Crimson. Yet the more R&B-oriented drummer has spent time as a band member and session man with other top artists, including Hall & Oates, Tears for Fears, Elvis Costello and even Sir Paul McCartney.
Coming from the alternative rock side is Welsh guitarist Michael Cozzi, who had worked with English alt/pop band Shriekback in the mid-1980s, then recorded three albums with American trance/psych rock unit Sky Cries Mary in the early 1990s.
Meanwhile, keyboardist and electronics engineer David Jameson spent more time out of music than into it. After working with Time Machine in the 70s and early 80s, he gave up the role of performer to pursue advanced technical training and industry experience as a music electronics developer for IBM. So he moved on a completely different track, then brought his expertise in electronics back into the mix when he joined the Project.
One example of a non-PG song that, thanks to Rhodes, has already become a Project staple is a mid-’80s Kate Bush composition called “Mother Stands for Comfort.” In fact, his uncanny vocal resemblance to the experimental singer-songwriter here is more apt than some of his PG covers. “The Bush Effect” also carries over to another song the project also regularly features – a Rhodes original called Collective Heart.
If there’s one song that best shows what each member brings to the project, it might be Gabriel’s 1980 anti-war song “Games Without Frontiers.” Notably, the original PG recording featured Bush (she’s on again) on backing vocals. Rhodes therefore does double duty on this song, contributing both lead vocals on the verses and Bush’s breathy French lyrical phrases on the choruses.
Interestingly enough, through creative instrumental pairing, the song also gives the band a chance to stretch out and “take a hit.” For the second “half” of the song, SP skipped its own self-imposed timeline and spliced it into a well-marked PG instrumental titled “Of These, Hope” – from its ambitious 1989 world music soundtrack, Passion. And since the project usually performs this two-song mix as an encore, this extended space rock jam brings their shows to a rousing climax. Truly borderless music.
It will be interesting to see where Security Project turns next in their song and artist selections as they continue their exploration of PG repertoire and other “songs without borders.” Their moments of improvisation suggest the band could create some exciting original material, if they put their collective hearts and minds into it. But, with their crazy backgrounds and overlapping outside projects, that seems unlikely. In the end, what brought them together was a deep and shared admiration for the collective works of Peter Gabriel. It therefore seems that they will continue their search for a new musical expression based on his musical universe.
So, did you think you’d like to go to “The Peter Gabriel Show”? Given that the former rock sailor himself isn’t as available as he once was, spending a night with Security Project might just be the next best thing. Just be careful to pay attention to your vocal cords.
For more information on the Security Project Guided Tour, please visit: https://securityprojectband.com