Stone Free Festival – O2, London (16th June 2018)

Whenever the word festival is thrown around, images of massive fields and pouring rain instantly come to mind. Want a festival without the bottles of urine, the just as appealing portaloos, and the experience of sleeping outdoors? Then you should have headed down to Stone Free Festival on Saturday 16th June and Sunday 17th June, where you could sit or stand comfortably in a dry, mud free arena. Taking place in the O2 Arena, the festival saw The Scorpions head to the stage, alongside other rock acts, guaranteed to take you back to a time when things were easier.

Nostalgia seemed to be a major theme of the weekend, and first to bring us back to that old school rock sound were Buckcherry. Fronted by a shirtless Josh Todd, who was obviously feeling the summer, festival vibes, they hit things off with “Ridin’.” The venue responded…well, as much as it could, with the minimal crowd. That did not hold back the band, as they made up for the weak numbers in charisma and strong songs, with a light show to rival any rave.

The photographer remarked that she could not get a good picture because Josh wouldn’t stand still. Isn’t that what a true rock show is about? The energy, the atmosphere, and, most importantly, the energy! Channelling this energy, Josh went on to describe a song written about his first cocaine experience. Maybe he should’ve shared some of this with the crowd. This led into their arguably most notable song, “Lit Up.”

They went on to cover “Say Fuck It” by “Icona Pop”, which fit into their set as if they’d written it themselves. Of course, their lyrical skills are far superior! “Sorry” showed us just that. It highlighted the fact that they can sing a slow song with the exact same energy as a true heavy rock song, a hard feat for many acts.

The instrumentation in “Gluttony” was amazing. Although an older song, it couldn’t have sounded fresher. The new members, who joined the band in 2017, showed their true colours, adding something different to the mix. Kevin Roentgen rocked the lead guitar, and Sean Winchester slayed the drums. Though older members Kelly LeMieux on bass and Stevie D. on rhythm guitar showed that they still knew how to rock.

“Crazy Bitch” seemed to finally get the crowd going, their dance song, which blended into a comedic mashup of “Jungle Boogie.” The room soon filled up. Perhaps, too late, as their set was over. The only problem with Buckcherry’s set was that it wasn’t long enough. If you weren’t aware of Buckcherry before the show, then you’ll certainly be aware of them now.

The next stop on the nostalgia train was Megadeth. They opened with the ultimate opener, the song that introduced most of us to them. Of course, it was “Hangar 18”, which instantly propelled us on the journey through their set. 2016’s single “The Threat Is Real” could not measure up to the power of “Hangar 18”, though what could? Luckily, that was one of the few new songs performed. However, new technology did play a major part in their show. If you don’t suffer from epilepsy, then the flashing visuals behind the band, telling the story of their songs, were amazing.

Although Dave Mustaine didn’t move as much as Josh Todd, the energy was still there, more so in the crowd. He showed off his guitar skills more than his moves, and it worked. It was guitar solos galore. Most times, the instruments were more powerful than Dave’s voice, which was both good and bad. It meant we couldn’t hear Dave’s voice, but it also meant we could hear the instrumentation at its fullest. Megadeth have had so many different members that their sound seems to be different every single time they play a live show. The lineup tonight is definitely at its best with Dave Ellefson on bass, Kiko Loureiro on electric guitar and Dirk Verbeuren on drums. Together, the members continued onward with another song that most of the crowd knew, “Prince of Darkness.” Can the visuals be complimented again?

The crowd begged for one more old song, and they delivered with “The Conjuring”, and a set made up almost entirely of old, classic songs, specially for us. Of course, they played “Symphony of Destruction”, which caused the audience to light up with phones and movements, probably hoping to capture moments for their friends, who could not have been at the show, but appreciate the nostalgia of the song. The band asked us why we were so quiet, and most of us had the same question, as they led into their final encore song, “Holy Wars.” After thrashing the performance, Megadeth proved they belonged amongst the ‘big 4’ of thrash metal, alongside Metallica, Anthrax and Slayer.

The final destination on the nostalgia journey was The Scorpions. They literally opened with a bang, as they launched into their first song “Going Out With A Bang.” More in depth hypnotising visuals played out on the screen behind them, again, giving that rave-like effect, without the drugs. Donning a UK flag, they seemed more proud to be in the United Kingdom than most of the crowd was. They rewarded us for being in the country with a set full of old tunes. “Is There Anybody There?” They played, asking the question that had been asked to the crowd all night. There were certainly people there to see them. It seemed Buckcherry and Megadeth had thoroughly warmed up the audience.

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Even without words, their instrumental song “Coast to Coast” made the crowd react. The cheers, movements, and overall energy made up the lyrics. Lots of instrumentals followed because these guys can play their instruments. Mikkey Dee beat the drum set, Pawel Maciwoda strummed out on the bass, with Matthias Jabs on lead guitar and Rudolf Schenker on rhythm guitar, and, of course, fronted by the charismatic Klaus Meine, who interacted amazingly with the audience.

They toned it down for a beautiful acoustic mashup that proved they can rock as well as roll with slow tunes. Then the venue became a karaoke club as everyone attempted to sing “Wind of Change.” There wasn’t a person who’s lips weren’t moving. They played homage to the late Lemmy with a cover of “Overkill” by “Motorhead”, which was appreciated greatly by the venue. Mikkey Dee hit an intense drum solo, leading in to the classic closing songs “Blackout” and “Big City Nights.”

Their most popular songs were rightfully reserved for the encore. They beautifully launched into “Still Loving You”, before ending on the ultimate song, “Rock You Like A Hurricane.” Yes, they had rocked the venue like a hurricane, leaving a wake of devastated people, who would not get more songs. It was over, and instead of returning to the cool outdoors, and an uninviting tent, everyone rushed to catch the last tube towards their warm indoor bed.