LIVE: The Maine @ O2 Forum, Kentish Town

By Yasmin Brown

It’s been a little under a year since The Maine were last at the O2 Forum Kentish Town kicking off their ‘You Are OK’ album cycle, and tonight we’re back in that very same venue to celebrate the closing night of the European tour. So much has happened in that time, but as we reconvene in the same room 11 months later, it becomes abundantly clear that one fact will always remain true: The Maine are the most wholesome band in the world. 

Tonight’s main support comes in the form of Sydney’s Stand Atlantic, bringing their relentlessly charismatic pop-punk catalogue to this London stage. Already hugely popular with tonight’s crowd, it doesn’t take much encouragement to get fans off their feet and opening up countless pits across the band’s short set. As front woman Bonnie Fraser verbally works to amp up the crowd, her bandmates use their free arms to coax them into dancing, and with a setlist filled with fan favourites such as ‘Skinny Dipping’, ‘Clay’, and ‘Lavender Bones’, it makes for a perfect warm up act for the main event and it’s easy to see – through the sea of arms – why Fraser considers this one of the best London shows they’ve ever played.

After a short interval, the small, makeshift screen that lights the back of the stage starts playing a video montage with voiceover supplied by The Maine’s front man, John O’Callaghan. The screams that accompany this would be unbearable if only you weren’t so excited yourself, and soon enough The Maine (complete with understudy drummer) take to the stage, each member dressed in a warm yellow that reflects the album’s cover art, instantly making you forget the chill that lies beyond the confines of this intimate room. 

The initial cheers should have been a sign of what’s to come, but as the first words of ‘Slip the Noose’ are uttered, O’Callaghan’s voice is drowned out as the fans take over with momentous enthusiasm, singing louder than you might ever think possible. It’s an energy that’s maintained throughout the 90-minute set and in between songs, when O’Callaghan’s quirky temperament shines through in the form of crowd heckling and short anecdotes, the audience hanging on to his every sweet yet often endearingly nonsensical word.

The entire evening could be described as a highlight – of your day, week, month, year – but within it there are moments that shine even brighter and cause even more joy. ‘Am I Pretty?’, while just one song, easily becomes one of these moments, as it’s stretched out into a 10 minute segment. Individual crowd members are encouraged to dance along in the middle of a pit while the screen at the back of the stage subtly transitions through a number of phrases telling us we are enough, we are beautiful, we are loved. 

As O’Callaghan disappears into the sea of fans during ‘Am I Pretty?’, he announces that just this morning, drummer Pat Kirch – the band’s absent drummer – became father to a baby girl. The screams of excitement that erupt suggest that the fans in attendance have an investment in the band that goes beyond the music, and while it’s impressive that the crowd regularly drowns out the band with their singalongs, this connection clearly runs so much deeper as we all celebrate this new life together. 

O’Callaghan crowd surfs back to stage before the backing screen lights up to show childhood photos of each of the band members, perfectly accompanying ‘Fucked Up Kids’ before transitioning into clear fan favourite, ‘Bad Behaviour’ which sees the whole of Kentish Town off its feet and singing along emphatically to the 2017 hit. 

It’s after this that the night gets really weird, and you’d be forgiven for starting to wonder whether you’ve accidentally entered an unusual take on karaoke as O’Callaghan stands alone on stage, encouraging the crowd to sing songs such as Britney Spears, The Killers, and Smashmouth for bordering on 10 minutes before it’s drawn to a close as the rest of the band rejoin O’Callaghan in an admirable attempt at starting a hardcore band. 

This whole night is bound to have you feeling something – longing, joy, love, lust, regret –  but never more so than during the final three performances of the night. As the band transition from ‘Black Butterflies and Deja Vu’ to 2019’s ‘Numb Without You’ and ‘Flowers on the Grave’, emotions reach their peak, and there could be no better trio to bring the night to such a magnificent close. ‘Flowers on the Grave’ in particular gives the band an opportunity to show off their musical talent shamelessly and in all its glory – the crowd drinking in the full length of the song, fully aware that this is their last opportunity to embrace what has been a charming and effervescent evening.

As the last notes play out and the band leaves the stage, we now know two things for certain: The Maine are the most wholesome band in the world, and we are OK.