(Vaba) Lava on Fire!

22. April 2018
Stefano Pocci

Lava: molten rock that issues from a volcano. This definition, extracted from the English dictionary and not from the Estonian (where “lava” means “stage”), gives a rough idea of the incendiary performance of the volcanic Cory Henry and his Funk Apostles.


The concert was scheduled for 11pm, party time, and the audience amassed in front of the stage was anticipating an act filled with energy and good feelings. The master of ceremonies, Cory Henry, from Brooklyn, was ready to deliver his mass of grooves with the help of his powerful band. Drums and guitar on one side, bass, choir and keyboards on the other, the funk preacher, Cory, in the middle with his Hammond organ.


From the first notes, it was clear that the audience had come to the right place to dance and to let their emotions burst out. Cory Henry with his natural charisma and galvanizing moves, set the Vaba Lava on fire. After what could be defined as a warm-up tune where the people were “kindly invited to move their behinds” quoting Sex Machine by James Brown, the band played a funky rendition of the classic Bee Gees tune Staying Alive. It was not simply a cover though. The band looped the song refrain – somebody help me – over and over adding more and more energy at every repetition: a continuous crescendo that could have probably gone on forever, judging from the reaction of the public. It was then the turn of Love Will Find the Way, another train to funky town on which the audience jumped without a qualm, singing along with the messengers of Funk all the way.


The Funk Apostles’ music is not just funk however. In the slower moments of the tunes, a sensual, groovy feeling clearly emerges and reveals another side of the band, which, paired with the overall gospel/preaching approach, becomes the more emotional one. One could easily hum: “Mmm, feelin’ good, yeah”.


When the rest of the band was given more space, be it the female vocalists or the guitarist – who played a scorching solo towards the end – Cory would move around the stage engaging them, or turning to the people asking for more support with his whole body, as if we were the catalyst, the human link between them and the band. Even though they did not produce any extended solos, the work of the rhythm section, drummer Taron Lockett and bassist Sharay Reed, must be mentioned. They were the true backbone for the funkiness oozing from the keys of Cory’s Hammond.


Before the closing encore, the band played its most recent single, Traded It All, followed by Give Me a Sign, this last being a new invitation for the people in the audience to search for a message, whatever it could be for each one of them – in Cory’s case obviously a musical one – to feel good and at peace. After his final blessing (Naa-Naa-Naa), the rite was complete and the sweaty audience could finally rest or release its remaining energy in the last steps on the dance floor, with Cory’s invocation to scream “Everybody!” still resonating in their ears.


Cory Henry and The Funk Apostles


Cory Henry: Hammond-organ, piano, vocals

Nicholas Semrad: keyboard

Adam Agati: guitar

Sharay Reed: bass

Taron Lockett: drums

Denise Stubmayer: vocals
Tiffany Stevenson: vocals


Vaba Lava, Saturday, April 21, 11pm


Check out photos from the concert here