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Live Review: Stephen Sanchez

SWX, Bristol - 12/02/2024







When my TikTok feed kept showing me fan-filmed concert videos of 21 year-old, Stephen Sanchez, I knew I had to get down to the first night of his UK headline tour at Bristol’s SWX.


Upon arriving at the venue, a nightclub in Broadmead with a capacity of 800, I'm surprised by the length of the queue winding down the street and around the back of the venue. It takes half an hour from the doors opening to get inside the venue due to the sheer amount of people already here. As I walk for what feels like a mile to the back of the line, I notice almost everyone here is dressed up very specifically for the occasion; all slicked back hair from male members of the audience, leather jackets and suits, and high heels and rock-ability dresses. There’s also a real mix in ages, the demographic spanning generations, something really refreshing for a rising star so young, especially when his music-style is heavily 50s and 60s inspired.


Once inside the venue, it is already absolutely crammed before the support act, John Vincent III, has even taken to the stage. It feels like such a rarity that a show of this size is pretty much at full capacity before the show has even really started, and it only adds to the positivity around the hype of Sanchez.


As the lights go down at 9pm, we are transported back in time. This is no longer SWX in Bristol, this is The Angel; it is no longer 2024, it’s 1950. A crackly voice over the loud speaker resembling that of a radio presenter informs us the story we’re about to hear is one that happened a long long time ago, and the characters we’re about to see are apparitions haunting this very room. The standing area tenses with anticipation until the lights come up and Sanchez enters the stage to piercing screams, blowing kisses to the crowd and fully embracing the heartthrob crooner image he’s been associated with.


But this isn’t Stephen Sanchez that has walked onto the stage tonight. This is The Troubadour Sanchez, a 1950s musician who has found himself in a difficult love triangle having fallen in love with and sparked up a secret romance with the mob boss owner of the venue’s girlfriend, Evangeline.


Opening with piano led ballad, Something About Her, the first track of his debut concept album, Angel Face, the stage is completely dark, Sanchez backlit on the stage so only his almost Elvis like silhouette is visible.


The aforementioned Evangeline comes next and appears to be quite the fan-favourite, being met with a roar of approval. The same reaction continues as the show ploughs on, but most notably on numbers such as High, and almost anytime Sanchez moves in any proximity to the front few rows.



Whilst he’s playing a character tonight, and his opening monologue aside, between songs there are major cracks revealing the young rising musician, Stephen Sanchez, standing before us. He takes time to interact with the audience, speaking to one fan about how they skipped college to attend tonight, and laughing at confessions of love and adoration, and requests for his hand in marriage. Whilst he describes himself as a “dork with a microphone” who needs it taking away from him because he talks too much, he’s got the aesthetic of a modern day Elvis, hints of Tim Buckley and Roy Orbison in his vocal delivery and the charm of Harry Styles. It’s clear why there’s so much heckling, inaudible from the back of the pit, but comments that those around me are in agreement we're ok with not being able to decipher.


There’s so much hysteria in the audience, it really feels like we’ve gone back to the era Sanchez tries to convey within his sound; the front rows practically swooning over him. When he plays Shake, the cheers are deafening as he slides across the floor, swinging his hips and taking on movements as if a puppet on strings. With every movement he makes, the sharp screams follow.


The show feels like it’s gearing up for the grand finale the whole way through and the anticipation for the moment only grows as we progress through the hour and a quarter playing time. When it’s realised we’ve reached that song, phones are raised, poised to start recording soon as the all-too familiar jangle of the opening notes can be heard. Within the story, hit single Until I Found You, is the Troubadour’s biggest song which starts all this for him, echoed in his real-life after the song went viral last year, racking up over 7000 million Spotify streams and leading to him performing the track alongside Elton John at his farewell set at last year’s Glastonbury.


Almost everyone in attendance tonight have come tonight accompanied by a significant other, and since we’re two days from Valentine’s Day, it really adds to the atmosphere in the room. “You know her name!” Sanchez laughs before going into the first verse, the crowd singing along loudly over the top of his smooth vocals. There’s swaying in the crowd and my view, when not blocked by phone cameras filming, is blocked by couples resting their heads on each other.


As the song begins to reach its close, Sanchez pulls in the rest of the band, The Moon Crests, and they congregate at the front of the stage, arms around each other. Sanchez instructs the crowd to take the final chorus alone, which they do completely a cappella. It’s a stunning close to such an intricately thought through set and a real testament to the raw talent of Sanchez and the dedication of his fanbase across the ocean.


Whilst the Troubadour Sanchez met his untimely demise following his success, it’s unlikely Stephen Sanchez will be following suit. The next time he finds himself touring in the UK, he’ll almost certainly be haunting much bigger venues.



KATIE HILLIER

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