Oh to be in England now that Summer is here… After an excellent day of beer and World Cup football in Central London, what better way to end the day than a schlep into docklands for a mixed bag of heavy metal delights at the first day of this year’s renewal of the Stone Free Festival?

The venue formerly known as the Millennium Dome, the O2 Arena, is impressive to look at as you emerge from North Greenwich tube, but inside it’s futuristic skin the reality is it’s been converted into a horrendous shopping mall, rammed to the gunwhales with well-known High Street restaurants all vying for the right to screw a few extra quid out of the hungry punter. It’s a chaotic atmosphere, heightened by the sounds of acts such as Warrior Soul and Orange Goblin entertaining the punters lucky enough to have escaped the tractor beams of Mammon enveloping the concourse. Sentinel Daily wisely decides to head inside to the auditorium proper for a bit of piece and quiet.

Eventually LA glam rock survivors Buck Cherry open events on the nicely balanced main stage bill. The hall fills steadily as Josh Todd and his band of largely faceless troops attack their set with gusto; by the time the band hit their crescendo with a spirited mashup of Kool and the Gang‘s Jungle Boogie and their own biggest hit Crazy Bitch those on the floor of the arena are eating out of their tattooed hands. Buck Cherry arrived meekly but leave the stage strutting like the grubby peacocks they undoubtedly are.

Megadeth have no time for such frippery; riffing is their business and tonight business is spectacularly good. In fact, on reflection at the end of last night’s set, a set that included stone cold classics of the calibre of Rattlehead, The Conjuring, Symphony of Destruction and Mechanix, among others, your reviewer decides it was the best he’d seen Dave Mustaine and Dave Ellefson since 1986. Marvellous stuff, and a perfect way to celebrate guitsarist Kiko Loureiro‘s birthday.

Headliners The Scorpions may be winding operations down, but you’d never have noticed it on the strength of their performance, which kept a now nicely full hall entertained with a nicely paced collection of hits and memories. Going Out With a Bang and We Built This House take care of the latterday ouevre, but to be honest both the band and the audience know what’s required and older material like The Zoo and Make it Real hit paydirt early on. An excellent medley of seventies scorchers (Steamrock Fever! Speedy’s Coming! Top of the Bill!) also raises the temperature inside the auditorium, as does the exemplary playing of guitarist Mathias Jabs, who smokes throughout.

The brevity of the main stage bill works well tonight, and the apparent disparity between the styles of the three acts actually makes for an entertaining and varied night’s entertainment – hats off to all involved in its execution.