Stephen Sanchez London show at KOKO review | Music | Entertainment

The hysteria was palpable in North London’s trendy KOKO last night, the faithful and early believers gathered at the altar of the latest music idol. When the slim figure in a peach silk shirt, wide trousers and fantastic black and white tassled loafers (yes, I want them) finally appeared, the screams blew the roof.

Old and young thronged together in adulation, and not just the ladies. A raucous and very masculine shout of “Stephen, you sexy b*stard” rang out to cheers. Others, no doubt, appreciated his offering of a number to “make out and make love to your partner.” 

Born in California, the love for Stephen Sanchez transcends gender, age and borders – the current tour is sold out across Europe. The only complaint is that the venues are too small. Now based in Nashville, his modern retro sound is infused with the glories of Orbison and Elvis, but he also brings his own sensibility and artistry to the genre rather than just karaoke imitation.

Sure, there were lip curls, hip wiggles, possibly some pelvic action and The King’s own sweetly disarming swagger. He also looks like the love-child of Elvis and Timothee Chalamet – but Sanchez has a voice entirely his own. 

And what a voice. A rich lower vibratto like molasses is already more than enough. A friend sighed next to me, “He should do audio books.” “Yeah, the naughty kind,” I replied and we both rapturously drifted off for a moment. But this kid can also effortlessly soar into a textured, powerful falsetto that tingles your spine, and doubtless elsewhere.

Breakthrough hit Until I Found You is the grand finale, complete with a crowd sing-along and Sanchez and his superb band, The Moon Crests, linking arms onstage to soak it all up. But before that was the entire, glorious, gorgeous tale of The Troubadour.

Sanchez didn’t just start writing a poetically beautiful album about the break-up of a relationship at 19. His vision has also been translated into a devastating tale of a young singer who falls for gangster’s moll Evangeline and pays the price. Along with videos, there is also a stunning technicolour short film, Angel Face: The Live Visual Album, with the songs and storyline woven into a complete whole. 

At KOKO, Sanchez gave us the euphoria of Evangeline’s own song and a rollicking, rock and rolling Shake, the tender Something About Her and I Need You Most of All. Plus, my own personal heaven, the heartachingly epic Be More.

It’s a mark of true talent when a crowd universally falls silent through the numerous quiet, intimate songs. Sanchez draws us in to his world. His talent is undeniable. He is already writing new material with the exciting prospect that I have no idea where he might go next. But I know I probably couldn’t ask for, ahem, more…


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