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In The Clubs
Late Night Spent Burning Out The Stars with Magna-Fi at the Hi-Fi.

By Chuck G.

Magna-Fi makes the musical statement that "this world is burning down," but Saturday, October 2nd the Las Vegas quartet spent the better part of an hour burning down the house. The house in question? The Hi-Fi Club in Cleveland, Ohio.

This show marked a homecoming of sorts as brothers Mike and C.J. Szuter are from the Cleveland area and were last here in August as part of the Ozzfest event at Blossom Music Center. Before that, a one-off show in late May at the Odeon concert hall.

Looking every bit as grizzled and road-weary as traveling by Winnebago would allude, Magna-Fi loaded into the club themselves with no fanfare wanted or needed. True professionals, they set-up their equipment, did a brief soundcheck then retreated stage-left for what Mike, Red Bull in hand, referred to mysteriously as their "pre-show ritual."

Five minutes later, Mike, C.J., Rob and Charlie took the stage and said "hello" to the crowd with a note-perfect rendition of Van Halen's  "Eruption" with Mike Szuter handling lead-virtuoso duties in true Eddie volcanic fashion. 

Launching into a (I'm guessing) new song, Magna-Fi kicked off any bit of road rust they may have been feeling. They may have LOOKED like they were hungover as hell just minutes earlier, but it was clear to those in attendance that the band was fired up. 

Lead singer/guitarist Mike Szuter half-mockingly joked that their "new" know, the one that's been out for about 200 years now...was available to purchase and that their new single would be hitting some "active-rock" radio formats very soon. With that, Rob launched into the sweetest bass riff this side of AIC's "Would?" and eventually the whole band stole the stars from the sky with their war-tinged "Down In It."

More fresh material was in the offing with "Squint" (great title). If you like "Burn Out The Stars" but worry Magna-Fi might be a one-album wonder, take heed. The new material stands up and fits in well with the Magna-Material you know and love. And, if you are familiar with Magna-Fi's previous incarnations as Outta The Blue and simply The Szuters, you know these guys have a deep well of song writing talent to pull from.

New product pushed? Check. Now it was time to liberally pick and choose from their breakthrough album's mainstays such as "TV Killed Me" and "Seconds, Minutes, Hours" with the haunting chorus of:  "Drowning in an ocean, filled with childhood emotion, When things just didn't work out like we planned, And I don't understand..."

Come for the power, stay for the finesse. As loud and bombastic as Magna-Fi can be, the heart and soul of the group are brothers Mike and C.J. harmonizing to form a sweet bridge or melancholy chorus. That was never so apparent as in the ballad/showpiece "This Life" on which Mike played what turned out to be a horribly out-of-tune 12-string guitar. But the hometown crowd didn't care. The soaring perfection of the post-solo bridge when Mike emotes:  "There's some things you just don't do, Some things you can't get through..." overshadowed any technical shortcomings.

Perfection was also on display with the tell-tale "Mission: Impossible" intro for "Beautiful." Detailing what could be Paris Hilton's comings-and-goings, this is the band's Magna-Finest Hour. Smooth, ever-building verses lead to a chorus that must make other bands put down their instruments and call it day. It's not so much catchy as it is infectious. Sweet simplicity in a hard rock wrapper with it's "Hokey-Pokey-esque
finger-pointing of "You're In, You're out, You're all X'd out..."

Mike, being lead singer/guitarist, is tied to the microphone at center stage, but the smaller confines of the Hi-Fi were perfect for the enthusiasm shown by the rest of the band. C.J. and his pogo-jumping manic string-strumming style, Rob, wide-stance, low-slung bass-playing or Charlie, powerful arms flailing away(watching him hit crash cymbals located on his right with his left hand is a thing of powerful beauty).

Rounding out the set with the leveling guitar/bass attack of "Where Did We Go Wrong?" and then the eventual and obligatory nod to Cheap Trick with subpar set-ender "Stiff Competition," Magna-Fi embody everything that's right with the performance end of the music business. They show up, they set-up, they play their hearts out. If this band doesn't break, but Britney makes another 5 records, I will lose all faith in the part of the music industry that, right now, is not holding up their end of the bargain.

Would monetary gain be good for Magna-Fi? Of course...but they've been in the game a long time now and the Winnebago sitting outside the Hi-Fi suits them just fine. For now.

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