Nashville’s native Stephen Sanchez brought his Angel Face tour to Franklin Music Hall this past week, filling the room with with catchy ’50s era melodies, robust hip swinging, and exceptional storytelling along the way. Opening for him was fellow crooner, fellow Nashvillian, and fellow Stephen: Stephen Day, a welcoming spirit who’s been crushing the charts this past year and a perfect complement to the soul-pop theme of the night.
Sanchez started off his set with the cautionary tale “Something About Her,” followed by “Evangeline,” a lyrical and powerful interwoven story describing a man named Troubadour (a fictional version of himself) in the late ’50s who falls in love with a woman named Evangeline, who is dating a mob boss named Hunter, and is eventually murdered. Throughout the night, Sanchez unraveled this story in greater detail between songs like “Be More” and “Death of Troubadour.” Then songs like “Shake” and “Howlin’ At Wolves” showcased very retro Elvis-style party tunes that had everyone breaking out their individual version of old school dance moves. Guitarist Jesse Houle had an electrifying solo during ”Doesn’t Do Me Any Good” which left the crowd roaring. Sanchez then peppered in a piano cover of “Oh, Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison, showing off his vocal range and bravado as the crowd watched in pure silence and awe. It’s hard to believe this is the same person who had to back out of the Stick Season tour with Noah Kahan earlier this year to receive vocal surgery.
While most people are considered lucky to be gifted with the talent to either sing or dance, Stephen Sanchez is the exception and the rule. His impressive dance moves throughout the night were mesmerizing and contagious as he flew around the stage. His crowd work and banter with the audience was fun and refreshing. During one of the breaks, he started telling the crowd a story and jokingly goes into singing “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith which the band chimed in and gave the audience an improvisational cover of the classic while the building sang along. Those moments were a nice way to show his humility and let people into who he is as a person and not just a persona.
Twenty-one-year-old Stephen Sanchez might still be considered a newcomer, with his first album, Angel Face, released this September, and a viral smash with “Until I Found You” just released last year on TikTok. Age aside, his work ethic and success prove he was meant for the mainstage. From a knockout performance on his last visit to Philadelphia at World Café Live just this past February, to performing his sensational hit “High” on the Late Night With Seth Meyers and selling out Franklin Music Hall the following day is pretty impressive. His success online is a testament to his talent, his remarkable voice, and his overall charm and likeability. His infectious cover of Cage The Elephant’s “Cigarette Daydreams” on TikTok gained him 122k followers on the platform and a production credit by Jeremy Zucker for his debut single, “Lady By the Sea,” the look that boosted him to get signed to Republic Records in the same year.
Sanchez finished out the night with “Until I Found You,” the crowd favorite that started his online journey to success. As the Angel Face tour comes to an end on December 18 with a final sold-out show at The National in Richmond, Virginia, Sanchez will continue to showcase his talent with an oversees leg in February. Philadelphia experienced an impressive performance that checked every box for concert-goers and gave hope for the fans who might believe that a lot of recent artists are only touring as a cash grab, as live concerts have had a renaissance as of recent. Sanchez’s continued success is an attribute to his extremely talented showmanship and should be an inspiration for artists to come.
Social media has played a significant role in shaping the music industry, providing a platform for artists to gain visibility and connect with audiences directly. Justin Bieber and The Weeknd were both discovered on YouTube singing cover songs. Shawn Mendez gained attention through Vine, a now-defunct short-form video platform. Lil Nas X broke out with the viral hit “Old Town Road” on TikTok. We live in a time where record stores are closing, and social media is the best way to be seen or heard. Aspiring artists should start to abandon the “it’s all about who you know” mentality and take notes from Stephen Sanchez as an example that it still takes talent, hard work, and creativity to be a great success.