O'Callaghan, unable to hide behind a guitar, is totally self-possessed as a frontman; he doesn't need to ask the crowd to sing along and he knows it, which makes them want to sing along even more.
Which isn't to say he wasn't involved -- several times he asked fans in front what they needed, whether the band could do anything for them, a bit of stage business that concluded every time with someone throwing bottled water into a crowd packed so tight they couldn't really lift their arms to catch it. Later on, he leaned back into the crowd, tethered to the stage like a fishing bobber by his microphone cord.
At another point, leading into "These Four Words," he asked if anyone in the audience listened to Tom Waits. After scattered yeses -- "Don't fucking patronize me," he warned -- he suggested that the people who'd bought Forever Halloween buy The Heart of Saturday Night, and the people who'd downloaded Forever Halloween "get on [their] fucking pirate ship and go illegally plunder" it.
But all the jokey bluster was a prelude to an affecting paean to their hometown -- "This is where we were born, it's where we will die" -- and leavening for a tight set that gestured toward every evolutionary step as a band. (It's both a terrifying reminder of time's icy hand and a little funny that our first coverage of the band, back in 2008, began "Tempe's The Maine has MySpace tweens and teens eating out of their hands. And can you blame them?")
When you bring a prop on stage at a venue the size of the Crescent Ballroom you're always taking a risk. But it was clear from the start that their giant M wasn't in lieu of a stage presence so much as a confirmation of it -- it was a reminder that their live show is as inextricable a part of the band as their albums. When they closed the set and the show and the tour out with "We'll All Be," with every musician on the tour huddled around microphones and drums in giddy crowds, it was obvious why.
With major-label validation already tested and rejected, it's harder than it used to be to guess at what a band in The Maine's position should be doing next. But they'll certainly be doing something.
Click through for more photos and the setlist.