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Angel Face: Stephen Sanchez at KOKO


Photo available via Flickr (Under License Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))


On Tuesday 13th February, Nashville-based Stephen Sanchez and The Moon Crests graced the stage of Koko, Camden. Currently on the European leg of his tour, Sanchez promotes his latest album: Angel Face. 


Inside the trendy venue, a stunning auditorium with chandeliers and balconies matched the opulence of Sanchez’s performance. I was transported to a sock hop, listening to a pre-show set list including The Penguins’ ‘Earth Angel’ amongst others, surrounded by a stirred crowd. The hysteria was palpable, as audience members awaited the 21-year-old dreamboat crooner’s grand entrance. With vocals as smooth and rich as molasses, Sanchez revives the doo-wop and rock ’n’ roll of 1950-60s Americana. At the same time though, he adds his own contemporary spin, attracting both young and old with his nostalgic hits. 


The audience was far more diverse than I anticipated, a particular highlight being when a deep male voice bellowed, “Stephen, you sexy bastard!”, to which cheers erupted. Sanchez’s crowd, myself included, was mesmerised by his onstage charisma and visceral connection to his music, which transcends time, gender, and genre.

  

Sanchez appeared as suave as ever, wearing a pink silk shirt, black and white tasselled loafers, and wide suit trousers. With his arms spread wide and kisses blown to the audience, screams grew louder. Sanchez’s silhouette was suddenly illuminated from a spotlight behind him, the room fell silent, and the haunting tenderness of ‘Something About Her’ sent a chill down the audience’s spine. 


The singer came alive with fan favourite ‘Evangeline’, a euphoric ode to the muse and face of his new album. At one point, Sanchez gestured towards the circle of the theatre, a spotlight revealing Evangeline herself, the glamorous London-based Frances O’Sullivan (who I had the pleasure of meeting post-show!). 


Sanchez’s slicked dark hair and gyrating hips inevitably evoke Elvis Presley, as well as his angelic falsetto, reminiscent of Roy Orbison, crystallised in his cover of ‘Pretty Woman’. “Where are all my pretty women at?”, Sanchez growled, as audience members screamed to the iconic drums and guitar riff. The raucous rock ’n’ roll of ‘Shake’ brought to mind Jerry Lee Lewis, alongside Sanchez’s evocation of Chuck Berry’s duck walk. Nonetheless, Sanchez has a voice entirely his own, paying homage to icons of the past, whilst blazing his own trail entirely.

 

Angel Face takes us on a journey of the tragic love affair between the Troubadour (Sanchez), and Evangeline (O’Sullivan), the girlfriend of a mob boss. The glorious but devastating tale of the Troubadour is woven amongst songs throughout Sanchez's live performance, culminating with his demise in ‘Death of The Troubadour’. We were even treated to a new unreleased song, ‘Howlin’ at Wolves’, a rocky number channelling Evangeline’s vengeance. One of my personal favourites, ‘Be More’, had the audience in tears, and young couples embracing. 


The heart-aching ballad shows off Sanchez’s outstanding vocal range, effortlessly soaring from his velvety baritone to transcendent falsetto. Sanchez finished with his breakthrough hit, ‘Until I Found You’, complete with an intimate sing along from the audience.


The lights came up, instruments put down, only Sanchez arm in arm with his Moon Crests, singing a cappella with an emotional crowd. 


Since he appeared as Elton John’s musical guest at Glastonbury 2023, Sanchez has been propelled into the mainstream, rightly so. The young idol’s talent is undeniable, his popularity inevitable, and with new songs in the making I look forward to what he brings to today’s music scene. 


Edited by Lucy Blackmur, Music Editor

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