LIVE: The Maine @ The Craufurd Arms, Milton Keynes

By Yasmin Brown

The Maine’s last visit to the UK saw them in a race against time before the pandemic put an end to the music industry as we had known it. We may not have been aware, but this tour was a farewell masked as a celebration in support of their 2019 album ‘You Are OK’ and looking back, we couldn’t have wished for a better way to see off our thriving industry for the next year and a half. 

Flash forwards 19 months and The Maine have made it their mission to return as soon as they have been able, determined to pick up the celebration where they left off – for real this time. With the recent release of ‘XOXO: Love and Anxiety in Real Time’, it’s near perfect timing, the new songs still fresh in our minds as they’re played here in this live environment for the first time in the UK. 

The band take to the stage as ‘Sweet Caroline’ plays over the speakers, the crowd singing along more enthusiastically than we have since the final of the 2020 Euros back in July. It’s an apt song choice given the first song on the set list, ‘Sticky’, which correctly references the track as being one of those catchy numbers you just can’t get out of your head. The energy is tangible in this sweltering box room (“Is anyone else sweaty at the elbow?” – Yes, John. The knees, too) at the back of a Milton Keynes pub, and it takes no time at all for the crowd to start dancing as though their lives depend on it, desperately trying to make up for the lost time between now and February 2020, easily succeeding in their mission.

Never one to worry about embarrassing fans, the classic performance of American Candy’s ‘Am I Pretty?’ sees front man John O’Callaghan picking out individuals from the crowd to show off their best dance moves (“Drink your drink and show off!”), his insistence on including us in the show, making an already intimate performance feel that much more personal. This continues throughout with it becoming increasingly clear that the fans are as much a part of The Maine’s live show as the band themselves – at one point O’Callaghan goes as far as to take a fan’s phone straight from their hands and films himself and his bandmates from the stage, providing that fan with memories they can revisit for years to come. 

After a brief intermission which saw a delightful Smash Mouth singalong, O’Callaghan promises 53 more songs and threatens to “lock the fucking doors” in case this, for some reason, wasn’t okay with us (spoiler: it totally was). It’s a joke that continues right up until the end of the set where we’re met with the disappointing realisation that actually there aren’t 47 songs left and the night is over far too soon. 

The Maine never fail to disappoint and it’s been far too long since we were last able to experience the boundless joy they bring. From golden oldies such as ‘Everything I Ask For’ to bringing their new ‘XOXO’ material to life and everything in between, this really has been the most perfect comeback for the most wholesome band. This tiny pub isn’t the best for sound and the lack of ventilation leaves it feeling more like a sauna than a live music venue, but it’s the charisma and the atmosphere that makes this the most perfect show, something we’re able to express properly when O’Callaghan asks us to scream and jump in unison – a much needed cathartic expression of emotion. It’s been impossible to mask the grins on our faces from the very second they took to the stage and we’ll continue to smile at the memories right up until they make it back here again.