Peter Gabriel’s smash-hit fifth solo album, the Daniel Lanois-produced So, was the one that fully transformed the theatrical prog-rock trickster and Genesis frontman into a pop star, a key figure in the global fusions of the ’80s and a serious voice in international humanitarianism and activism. But amongst fans of prog and art-rock, the man had nothing at all to prove. His first four solo albums – along with a few aesthetically sympathetic records by Adrian Belew-era King Crimson – can be said to have reinvigorated if not outright rescued prog from its hazy mythologies, its rune-stitched robes, its overreaching formal ambitions and all the turgid block chords on poly synths.
Coming off his final and most ambitious statement as Genesis’ leader (The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway) and with an assist from Robert Fripp, Gabriel almost-singlehandedly made the case for prog-rock’s commercial and artistic viability in the age of punk and New Wave. Minimalist, weird, serious about global rhythms and multiculturally sourced stories, those four records yielded a handful of hits, from “Solsbury Hill” through ”Shock the Monkey”; but the hits are secondary to the massive influence of the sound and the global purview. All four records are titled Peter Gabriel, though the fourth gets called Security for reasons that aren’t too clear anymore, as the word appears nowhere on the product (except maybe a sticker on the original LP plastic wrap, if I recall correctly).
The man who had co-chaired a number of prog’s most notable and successful epic ventures ( the multicharacter “Supper’s Ready” and “The Battle of Epping Forest” at the top of the list) discovered an entirely new way to be epic in Minimalist, ambient world-rock masterpieces such as “Biko” and “San Jacinto.” These records demoed a new sound for art-rock as well as a new set of ensemble values. At the center of that brisk new way of playing was the cymbal-free drumming of our own Jerry Marotta, who, along with our own Tony Levin and the guitarist David Rhodes, formed the core of Gabriel’s experimental new ensemble for years.
Marotta now heads up a band dedicated to celebrating the radical legacy of those Gabriel solo records. It is called the Security Project, and it includes another late-era prog luminary in the Chapman Stick player and King Crimson alumnus Trey Gunn. The Security Project reinterprets material from the first five Gabriel solo records and hits up late Genesis for encores.
On Friday, December 4, the Security Project plays Gabriel at the Bearsville Theater. Tickets cost $20 in advance, $25 on the day of the show and $30 for Golden Circle seating with meet-and-greet privileges. The show begins at 9 p.m. The Bearsville Theater is located at 291 Tinker Street in Woodstock. For more information, visit www.bearsvilletheater.com.
Security Project Plays Gabriel, Friday, December 4, 9 p.m., $20/$25/$30, Bearsville Theater, 291 Tinker Street, Woodstock; www.bearsvilletheater.com.