The Maine are ushering in a new era, the XOXO era. To celebrate the oncoming era, the end of the last one, and the release of the new single ‘Sticky’, they held a free livestream.
After a countdown of over 15 minutes, the screen goes black, and the anticipation of what to expect is strong. What will the setlist be like? Will we hear any more new songs? Slowly, drummer Pat Kirch emerges from a corridor in the darkness and is followed by each band member.
What we’re presented with is a circular stage area with the cover of the new album XOXO: From Love & Anxiety In Real Time on the floor, which is basically an orange circle on a yellow background. It sits there like a target as we wait for the band to begin.
Without any introduction, they kick straight in with the new single ‘Sticky’, an energetic summer song that will get stuck in your head. No, seriously, the song is what the chorus calls the person he’s singing about, a catchy summer song.
You can feel that energy as lead singer John O’Callaghan sings, “You’ve been stuck in my brain / Want to play you / Over and over again / Sticky just like the song in my head / Back to that summer soundtrack.” The song is a great one to start with, not just because they’re playing the next best thing to an actual gig to celebrates its release.
It is also that the song has whipped up a storm of cuteness with fans because it has a reference to their 2017 song, ‘Black Butterflies and Déjà Vu’ in which O’Callaghan describes his inability to articulate the way he feels. In ‘Sticky’, he feels that he is now able to express these feelings singing, “And I finally found those letters lost / Under my tongue.”
As the song finishes, O’Callaghan finally speaks to us: “Let’s get straight into it. This song’s an old one…” and we hear the intro of ‘Like We Did (Windows Down)’, which is an old one, but there are older. The great benefit of this show is the alternating shots of each member expertly doing their thing. We can actually see Pat for once, which is nice.
What’s more is that as well as us being able to see all of them, they can see each other all facing the circle, our noble knights of the round table. The lack of audience did not hinder their performance at all; they really went for it right from the start. Bringing their A-game for fans all over the world.
Of course, they had a large virtual audience of about 6,500 people watching and even though it’s not the same as a crowd at a venue. The 8123 family really came out for them. Next, they roll into ‘English Girls’, and that signature voice of O’Callaghan’s is on point. So are their outfits. As per usual, the boys were rocking matching clothes this time; it’s black jeans and jackets with white shirts underneath. It’s a bit like when emo boys want to look smart for a date.
‘How Do You Feel’ is up next, followed by ‘Bad Behaviour’, which lifts the mood either higher, the excitement is real; you can feel it flying off each of the guys. It’s usually at this point in the gig that O’Callaghan takes off his jacket cos he’s sweating waterfalls, but I guess this place has great air conditioning because it’s staying on. He talks to us for a while to say, “Folks, wherever you are, I hope it’s where you want to be.” he explains that he means literally and also where you want to be in life. Reminding us that if we’re not, we should remember, “Where your at is not where you’ll always be.”
As the show goes on, they rattle off each of the classics putting in an amazing amount of electrifying energy including, ‘Unlost’, ‘Right Girl’, and ‘Numb Without You’. During ‘Numb Without You’, the drums were absolutely fierce. His sunshine drumkit is beautiful; it matches the mood. It’s a translucent yellow colour. You can see it for yourself in the ‘Sticky’ video.
‘Am I Pretty’ is up next, and it’s a sad moment for a second not to hear hundreds of voices scream “like what” at the same time after O’Callaghan sings, “You make me feel like…” but it’s only a fleeting moment. The band smashes away any negative thoughts or feelings with their performance, including the next song, ‘Ice Cave’, a controversial setlist choice as it’s one of their less popular songs.
We wouldn’t be surprised if the next part of the set gave the entire audience goosebumps; it did us. The Maine was joined on stage by Phoenix-based, alt-rock singer/songwriter Sydney Sprague, introducing her as their new friend. They proceed to play ‘Into Your Arms’ with Sprague playing the guitar as well as singing. We love the maturity in O’Callaghan’s voice compared to the recording of this song. Sprague is the perfect complement to him.
Then they play ‘Love and Drugs’ before saying thank you to us all and “welcome to the xoxo era!” The band ends the set perfectly with ‘Black Butterflies and Déjà Vu’, and when we hear O’Callaghan sing, “Can’t find the sound under my tongue / When I look at you,” we know that we’ve gone in a full circle back to the beginning. Back to that ‘Sticky’ moment, and it’s a reminder that we are about the step into a new era, or dance into it, to be more precise.