Skip to main content Skip to footer site map
Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below

Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below

With his solo show debut Aaron David Gleason, at long last, rides the wave into the spotlight.

Near the end of his show last night Aaron David Gleason told the story of how his Musical Director Darnell White told him that, together, they would get him up on the stage of 54 Below for his first solo show. First of all, that tracks. It is completely on-brand for Darnell Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below White to be the person that aids an artist into new territory, new adventures, and new experiences. Secondly, this can't have been Aaron David Gleason's first solo show. Surely, during his long career as a rock and roll singer-songwriter Aaron David Gleason has played out before: how else could he have gotten so doggone good? Maybe I heard it wrong, maybe this is Aaron David Gleason's first CABARET show. No, that can't be it because I've seen Aaron on this very stage before, at least twice. Of course, those were group shows in which he played a few numbers, those were not solo shows. Well, whatever the case may be, what this writer witnessed last night was not the performance of first-timer: this was the performance of a seasoned professional.

COME HELL AND HIGH WATER, as described on the 54 Below event page, is Aaron David Gleason's first attempt at dropping his guard and telling HIS story. Shocking. It is shocking because Mr. Gleason is a wonderful storyteller. Clearly, he has been practicing his storytelling skills on friends and family all these years because there is a special quality to Gleason's spinning that cannot, possibly, be studied or learned, taught or told - it is a natural ability that comes from an innate place, a place so organic as to be absolutely true, and, in storytelling, truth is everything. That isn't to say that storytellers can't flourish and finesse, embellish and elaborate because those extra touches are what makes storytelling into a dramatic art form. But the stories must come from a place of sincerity, of open-ness, and of authenticity, and those places are precisely where Aaron David Gleason lives.

Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below The event page on the 54 Below website also describes COME HELL AND HIGH WATER as a show in which Gleason will sing some Great American Songbook and Broadway fare. BZZZZZ! The judge's ruling on that one is a no. Aside from a brief snippet of "No One Is Alone" from Into The Woods (a play with which Gleason's family has a slight association), there is actually no music from either genre... And that is just fine. It is just fine because the music that Mr. Gleason does present isn't just germane to the tale being told in this musical cabaret play, it is music that lives so deeply within Gleason as to be ingrained in his soul, and that is where good cabaret lives, it's where it originates, it's where it thrives. In his hour-long set, Gleason sings some eight songs by the likes of Lucinda Williams, The Beatles and The Midnight Radio, and before all of the fine folks reading this review begin to question how a person fills an hour with eight songs, please let the reviewer explain that this is no music set. This is a storytelling show. Come Hell and High Water is Aaron David Gleason's exposition on a difficult time in his life that involved a natural disaster and all the thoughts and feelings born from an extended period of time spent living with relatives after the destruction of one's home (it's a lot cheerier than it sounds). Now, I've said this before and I will, no doubt, say it again: not everyone's life is interesting enough to be used as subject matter for a story, be it play, movie, book, or club act. Many people think that their life will make a great show and many people would be wrong. So why is Aaron David Gleason's story right for the creation of a rock concert cabaret? Because it will resonate with everyone.

Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below Who out there has been a child to a parent? And who reading this is the parent to a child? How about the spouses? Is anybody reading this review married? And have any of those married people hit speed bumps in that relationship? What about the children of divorce, the families whose home lives have been stressful, and how about the artists whose careers have floundered, leaving them wondering what it was all about and where they will go? Any of this ring a bell? With the exception of having a famous mother and having your home float away on a flood, almost all of what Gleason talks about in Come Hell And High Water is pretty universal, and should resonate with his audiences. But it's how Aaron reacted to these life events that makes his story his story. It's how he grew from the experiences that make him the storyteller he is today. And it's his own unmistakable originality that makes the story worth listening to and watching. And while you are watching him it's hard to believe you will ever see so charming and interesting, so delightful and accessible a man on a stage again. It is, apparently, not possible for Aaron David Gleason to be false. He is as he appears to be, bouncing around the stage to the music, playing with his band members, arms up in the air, squealing with emotion, and ready to rock.

And, boy howdy, can this dude rock.

Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below The quality of the music in Come Hell And High Water is exceptional, and so refreshing to hear in a cabaret room. You can call 54 Below a club, a nightclub, a small venue concert space, but, for all intents and purposes, 54 Below is one of Manhattan's cabaret rooms. It's ok. Cabaret isn't a dirty word, no matter how hard some people have tried to make it one. Cabaret comes in all shapes and sizes, in all forms and formats, but most of the time it is an artform centered around standards, The Songbook, and The Broadway, and that's wonderful. We all love those genres and those collections. But every now and then a person just needs some electric guitar and some synth, and that is where the wonderful rock and roll performers like Aaron David Gleason fit into the cabaret conversation: they are here to give the art form an infusion of sex, spine, grit, and glory, and Gleason's got it all. His vocals are out of this world, at times almost shocking because he sings with such force, such impeccable breath control, such impressive power, and yet he appears not even to be sweating. His mouth barely seems open, as he fills the room with a vocal roar reminiscent of the great rock singers of the Eighties. That isn't to say Aaron Gleason doesn't have a distinctive voice because he does - it's gorgeous and it's individual and it's all his own - but there are times when it feels like you're listening to Neil Diamond and moments when you think it's David Bowie, and that's only two of the famous rockers whose sounds ring in the head during Aaron's show. Gleason is clearly a man with an investment into the music of the Eighties because his vocal and composition work savors strongly of the best of that decade in music.

And it is his composition work that is destined to take Aaron David Gleason to the next level.

Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below Among the eight songs performed in Come Hell And High Water are three back-to-back gems written by Gleason, and as fantastic as his performances are of "Can't Let Go" and "Gray" and "Here Comes The Sun," it is in these three numbers of his own creation that Gleason really comes to life. The performances of his songs "Pops" and "Be Your Fool" are so visceral and so personal that it feels voyeuristic at times, but it is his song "Nueva York" that sets Gleason up for radio success. Watching Aaron's live performance of his 2017 release is what a lover of music and musical storytelling hopes for when they plunk down their money on the table and then plunk down their butt onto the seat. This is a song and a performance that should be grabbing peoples' attention, whether in person, on Spotify or on the YouTube machine: it has rock and roll radio all over it. But, then, so does every moment of Come Hell And High Water, right down to Gleason's script.

More than once during his intimate personal tale, Gleason mentions marijuana. He doesn't actually say the word marijuana: favoring, instead, the word weed, Aaron talks about getting high (with some very interesting other parties) and he talks about it with candor and humor. There should be no judgment from anyone in the world, these days, about marijuana - there certainly isn't any from this writer. The interesting thing, though, is that watching Gleason's show, listening to his story, is a little bit like being high on weed. There iReview: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below s purpose in the storytelling, there is a story arc, there is a trajectory ... but it is, at times, rather like listening to the story from inside of a pinball machine. Aaron can tend to be tangential, with the story starting at point A, hitting point B, and then jumping to point LMNOP before circling back around to point C. It's ok. It isn't difficult to follow, it is in no way frustrating or confusing, it is an organic part of the Aaron David Gleason experience and, to be clear, Aaron David Gleason is an experience. He is a wonderful, glorious, musical, emotional, raw, and real experience. It is easy to see why Stacey Bone Gleason looks at him the way she does (but, to be fair, he looks at her the same way). Oh, yes, Mrs. Gleason herself appears in the concert with Aaron, to aid him in telling the story of how their love survived the traumas of life, floods, anxiety, and parenthood - just like all the rest of us (well, except for the flood part... possibly). During their duet of "Love Is Strange" the married couple shone as a reminder of what it is to have a spousal partner that one truly adores, that one absolutely leans on, and that one would never be away from, if possible, for too long. They are an adorable couple, worthy of more public performances like this one.

And on the subject of ladies named Gleason, Aaron David's press for Come Hell And High Water lists mother, Joanna Gleason, as the director leading the way on this project but Mama Gleason would be quick to point out that Aaron did all the work. As this writer was headed out the 54 door, ADG's proud Mama assured me that Aaron wrote the piece, directed it, worked with his amazing band, dedicated Darnell White, and backup singers, Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below making it all come together, with her stepping in during the last leg of the journey to offer a fresh pair of eyes and some final directorial suggestions. That's it, she says, the rest is all him. It isn't surprising to hear that Aaron created all of this on his own because, only weeks ago, Joanna played her own personally-informed musical cabaret play on this very stage to great success. This is the family business, and the storytelling gene is strong with this family - in fact, it's probably just a matter of time before the Gleason-Sarandon/Bone-Gleasons are all on one stage in one big family show, which should be quite a fun escapade, one to look forward to and fantasize about. For the time being, though, this is Aaron David Gleason's moment because Come Hell And High Water is one heck of a way to start a career in the cabaret and concert industry, and it deserves a future life and many subsequent performances. It is quality theater, starting with the script and working outward through the music, the performances, Aaron's frenetic energy, and the audience connection. Come Hell And High Water is an impressive debut show and it, and its creator, are a most welcome addition to the art form and the community called cabaret and concert.

The Come Hell And High Water band is:

Joe Wallas on Bass

Neal Rosenthal on Guitar

Ian Barnett on Drums

Bella May Mordus and Irene Blackman on Backup Vocals

Darnell White Musical Directing and on Piano

Joanna Gleason in the Director's Chair

Aaron Gleason in the Writer's Seat

Find great shows to see by visiting the 54 Below website HERE.

THIS is the Aaron David Gleason website.

Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below

Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below

Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below

Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below

Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below

Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below

Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below

Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below

Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below

Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below

Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below

Review: Storytelling Floods The Basement When Aaron David Gleason Brings COME HELL AND HIGH WATER To 54 Below

Photos by Stephen Mosher

Visit the Stephen Mosher website HERE.


Join Team BroadwayWorld

Are you an avid Cabaret fan in NYC? We're looking for people like you to share your thoughts and insights with our readers. Team BroadwayWorld members get access to shows to review, conduct interviews with artists, and the opportunity to meet and network with fellow theatre lovers and arts workers.

Interested? Learn more here.





From This Author - Stephen Mosher

Stephen Mosher is the author of The Sweater Book (a collection of his photography featuring celebrated artists from the entertainment communities of New York, Los Angeles, and London), Lived In Crazy... (read more about this author)


Review: Jaime Cepero's SONGS ABOUT ANXIETY 2.0 at 54 Below Is All Anthems And Lullabies And Pure Unadulterated JoyReview: Jaime Cepero's SONGS ABOUT ANXIETY 2.0 at 54 Below Is All Anthems And Lullabies And Pure Unadulterated Joy
August 19, 2022

Jaime Cepero's solo show at 54 Below place him at the front of the line for promising emerging artists.

Photos: MATT DOYLE Concludes Three-Night Run at Chelsea Table + StagePhotos: MATT DOYLE Concludes Three-Night Run at Chelsea Table + Stage
August 18, 2022

Broadway World Cabaret brings Matt Doyle's fans a photographic look at his return to the cabaret and concert stage.

Mini-Video Roundup In Honor of JOHN CLARENCE STEWART's Debut Solo Show 54 BelowMini-Video Roundup In Honor of JOHN CLARENCE STEWART's Debut Solo Show 54 Below
August 17, 2022

After using his musical skills on two seasons of Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist, John Clarence Stewart is making a playlist of his own in his solo show debut at 54 Below.

Review: Robbie Rozelle Debuts New Green Room 42 Residency PARTY MIXReview: Robbie Rozelle Debuts New Green Room 42 Residency PARTY MIX
August 16, 2022

A full house of Rozelle followers turned up to hear what the comedic storyteller has to say and sing these days.

Album Review: Marya Zimmet's Debut Album ON THE ROAD TO LOVE Is Such Sweet SurpriseAlbum Review: Marya Zimmet's Debut Album ON THE ROAD TO LOVE Is Such Sweet Surprise
August 14, 2022

On The Road To Love doesn't feel or sound like the CD of a first-timer in the studio, thanks to Marya Zimmet's well-practiced artistry in the clubs.