Stephen Sanchez thinks this wasn’t a good show. He thinks this was the show where everything fell apart. He couldn’t be more wrong.

True, the 20-year-old singer-songwriter was beset with technical difficulties almost from the start of his sold-out set at the Constellation Room in Santa Ana last night (and I do mean sold out, not one more person could have packed into that room). But it takes more than malfunctioning earpieces to dampen Sanchez’s magical voice and charisma, qualities that only shined all the more brightly through the acoustic challenges. While staff scurried around trying to fix equipment, Sanchez simply laughed it off, unplugged, and treated the audience to an acoustic version of the next couple songs, his beautiful raw voice easily carrying the moment.

Stephen Sanchez’s music has heavy 50’s inspiration and a retro vibe. His song “Until I Found You” became a breakout hit after going viral on TikTok, recently surpassing 1 billion streams; but Sanchez is no one-hit wonder. He has a small but mighty discography with all different kinds of songs. Some melodies are dreamy and spare, like “The Pool” and “Hey Girl”; others are soaring like the latest single, “Evangeline.” All of it is heartfelt and crazy catchy .

I expected a roomful of swooning teen girls, and they were there, but the thing about Sanchez and his music is the broad appeal.  It was truly an all ages show, with fans from 15 to 75 , singing along with joy. The preshow playlist leaned heavily into Stephen’s retro vibe, and it was fun to see teens and twenty-somethings grooving to Little Richard and The Platters. But it was a song from The Killers that really got the crowd going.  The mixture of retro and modern perfectly encapsulates Sanchez’s unique sound.

Sanchez truly profited from the extra time in between songs to interact with the audience: he read signs, collected gifts, and asked fans questions. Charming and self-deprecating throughout, it felt like a room full of friends by the end – and what an end! Abandoned by technology and his band, Sanchez delivered “Until I Found You” solo and acoustically, and we were all grateful for the experience. Then, unnecessarily feeling he owed this crowd something more, he decided to sing one more song.

“What should I sing?” he asked, as if it was a group of friends hanging around his living room.  “Unchained Melody” the loudest voice shouted. And so he did, spontaneously performing a lovely version of the classic song that was all his own and mesmerizing. Sanchez stuck around after the show to meet and chat with his fans.

This is Stephen Sanchez’s first tour. If you want to catch a great show by an artist on the verge of stardom, he’s playing two nights at the Troubadour in Hollywood before closing out the tour.  Already catching a huge wave of popularity, he’s returning in the fall in larger venues that I can already guess will be happily packed to the rafters.

Words & Photos by Molly Riehle