LIVE: Jerry Marotta’s Security Project @ Putnam Place, 05/12/2022

Far too many years ago, I got introduced to the wild world of Peter Gabriel at the Orpheum Theatre in Boston. Gabriel was touring on his third solo album after leaving Genesis and was backed up by a crackerjack outfit that included synth legend Larry Fast, uber-bassist Tony Levin, and world-beating drummer Jerry Marotta. (“I played with Peter Gabriel when the Earth was still cooling,” Marotta cracked at one point.) I’d never seen anything like Gabriel, and that concert remains in my All-Time Top 10 Shows. I must not have been the only one to have this experience, as Putnam Place was packed with members of my demographic when Marotta bright his Gabriel tribute band Security Project to Saratoga Springs on Thursday.

Photo by Rudy Lu

Marotta is a charter member of Reelin’ In The Years, Scott Petito’s incredible monument to Steely Dan, so Jerry knows what it takes to put together a faithful, elevated tribute band. The first thing is to build a matrix similar to the original group, and Marotta followed that instruction to the letter, recruiting keyboardist/computer scientist David Jameson and Shriekback guitarist Michael Cozzi. The latter player formed a Herculean front line with Security Project co-founder Trey Gunn (formerly of King Crimson), who evoked the spirit of Levin throughout the night on touch guitar.

The fifth member of the band was Kimberley Tyler “Happy” Rhodes, a Greater Nippertown native who used to appear at Caffe Lena’s Open Mic nights.  Rhodes had the heavy task of communicating Gabriel’s uncompromising messages, and she started off strong, staying in the lower register of her four-octave range for the opening number “I Have The Touch”, Gabriel’s intense ode to people-pleasing. As with everything else in the ninety-minute set, Security Project kept it right between the lines, letting the audience re-live the first time they heard the tune.

Photo by Rudy Lu

They also heard that tune on full blast, as Marotta locked both the volume & his drum work into the Arena Rock level all night long. Jameson’s synths kept the emotional lighting at the dark level Gabriel preferred for killer tracks like “San Jacinto”, “I Don’t Remember” and “No Self Control”, while Cozzi & Gunn took turns multiplying the crowd’s group tinnitus. If you were looking for poppy Gabriel tunes like “Steam” or “Sledgehammer”, you were out of luck, as Marotta kept the material to the serious character sketches that made up the early portion of Gabriel’s solo career. They even avoided “Solsbury Hill”, officially considered Gabriel’s first “hit single”, and the youngest track they played was the searching “Digging In The Dirt”, which was inspired by Gabriel’s years in therapy.

Any complaints I had were generated by Rhodes, who definitely had the range to handle the occasionally operatic vocals Gabriel’s music required, but simply didn’t have the urgency Gabriel brought to all his material. (She also did most of her dancing in the wings, when she should have been doing it all onstage.) It wasn’t just Gabriel’s laser-sighted lyrics that transfixed us back in the day – it was how he presented protagonists like the assassin in “Family Snapshot” and the pirate DJ of “On The Air.” Gabriel embodied those characters and so many more. “On The Air” was one of two songs where Marotta took over lead vocals, the other being a surprise encore of the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway-era Genesis tune “Back in NYC.”

Photo by Rudy Lu

Mind you, I was the only one in the house that was picking nits: The full house at Putnam Place gave full-throated approval to Security Project from start to finish, including shouting lyrics right on cue during the choruses of “On The Air.” Probably the only mildly disappointed concertgoer was the guy who set the folding chair he’d brought along right down in front of me and Rudy Lu. “I won’t be in your way,” he blithely assured us, ignoring the stink-eye we were giving him. Karma acted faster than usual, as the guy’s own view was blocked as dancers appeared in front of the stage. As Gabriel the songwriter pointed out to all of us, life is simply not fair.

Photo Gallery by Rudy Lu

Comments are closed.