By Will Roper
June 12, 2018

On their ascension to stardom, an eclectic pianist and his band made a quick, memorable stop on their tour in the true blues bar of Lincoln.

On Friday night, the Zoo Bar housed blues pianist/vocalist Victor Wainwright and his band for an evening of high-octane roots blues music.

Wainwright, who recently became the winner of the Pinetop Perkins Piano Player award at the 2018 Blues Music Awards in Memphis, is currently celebrating his success with a new tour and a new album with his band The Train. The group is touring the U.S. and Canada during the spring and summer to showcase their debut self-titled album Victor Wainwright and the Train – an album that raucously and vibrantly blends blues and rock ‘n’ roll through Wainwright’s powerful voice and dexterous key playing.

The celebration of Wainwright’s rapid rise to blues fame will take the band further east into states like Arkansas, Massachusetts and New York before they head north into Ontario and Quebec.

At the Zoo, Wainwright and company performed both old tunes and newer ones from Victor Wainwright and the Train, and nearly every song had the Friday night crowd roaring with applause and appreciation.

The musical gifts of Wainwright became immediately apparent through his first songs as he expertly navigated the piano with purpose and precision. Fast scales, hard-hitting chords and melodic improvisation on the keys made for a superb entreé to the entire set, and easily could have been a solo show of its own. There’s a reason Wainwright recently won his blues award in Memphis – he’s got some of the best piano chops on either side of the Mississippi.

However, the show was much more than Wainwright’s piano. His lyricism and voice carried an intense energy throughout the night; an energy that can seemingly only arise from years of embracing the culture of blues. That energy and passion were with Wainwright during his opening set and closer, as evidenced by the near-permanent smile on his face and constant movement with the music.

The other members of the group were incredible musicians in their own right. The drums and bass were perfect  – setting the scene for structure, other solos and Wainwright’s powerful voice. Powerful, diligent guitar solos occupied and punctuated songs or other piano solos, and added the finishing touch on an all-around amazing group of blues performers.  

Of course, Wainwright and his band were amazing, and their unique blend of roots rock ‘n’ roll and traditional blues was right at home in the old Zoo Bar. The combination of Wainwright’s keyboard skill, performance style and remarkable accompanying band easily show that if he isn’t a household name in the blues world yet, he’s well on his his way.

Will Roper is an editorial intern with KZUM.