Victor Wainwright and The Train came to Darwin’s in Sandy Springs Friday night. He is a man of many titles, like “The Piano from Savannah,” and “the Ayatollah of Rock”n Rolla.”. Add to that the awards he has earned. He has been the Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year three times, including in 2017, and in 2016 he was BB King Entertainer of the Year. He has won many other honors as well, And Friday, he lived up to every one of them.
But before we talk about that, let’s talk about The Train. It takes a powerful group to play with Wainwright and this group is perfect! Drummer Billy Dean is also the announcer and conductor for the group and is fondly known as the “Chunk of Funk” He is joined by Terence “Sweet Tea” Grayson on bass and newest member Pat Harrington on guitar. They “warmed up” the already fired-up audience with a couple of numbers before Dean brought Wainwright to the stage, and they proved themselves a force to reckon with.
But that was nothing, nothing, to the hurricane that is Victor Wainwright on piano. He hit the boogie-woogie right away and we were all in the palm of his hand by the time he stopped playing that song and introduced himself and also his parents, who were seated in front of the stage. He told us he learned piano from his grandfather and launched into a manic version of “Alabama Jubilee.” I have seen Wainwright twice before and I was still stunned that anybody’s hands can move that fast! Then he explained that he learned to sing watching movies on TV, before launching into a scintillating version of “I Wanna Be Like You” from Disney’s Jungle Book, which became an extended jam. I really thought the room might levitate. It’s all a bit of a blur after that, of tales and amazing music and magic. I know he played some blues and his first hit song,”Big Dogs Runnin’ This Town.” It was like being in a perfect time and place with nothing to do but relax and listen to Victor Wainwright and his band spin spells.
At the break, I talked to Wainwright for a few minutes at his merch table. He is just as open, friendly and charming offstage as he is on, and he does have killer dimples, as Billy Dean mentioned in his introductory patter!
The bottom line is that Victor Wainwright really is an amazing musician and entertainer, and anytime you get to see him and his fantastic band, they are going to make you feel good. Kudos to Darwin’s for bringing him to the Atlanta area and to Wainwright and The Train for an electrifying show!