Stephen Sanchez in Oakland: Theatrical storytelling by a true troubadour

Nov. 8, 2023, 2:12 a.m.

When the lights dimmed in Fox Theater, fog creeped onto the stage as singer-songwriter Stephen Sanchez took the spotlight. During the Oakland concert on Saturday, Sanchez immersed the audience in an enchanting musical narrative.

Sanchez was simultaneously the narrator of the love story and main character of his concert; with his sultry voice and emotive expressions, he was incredibly present throughout. 

The setlist told a story of two star-crossed lovers — Evangeline, the daughter of a mob boss and the subject of the eponymous song “Evangeline,” and a troubadour. The evolution in their enamors were captured by the wistful “Something About Her,” the tender “I Need You Most of All” and the energetic “High” and “Only Girl.” 

Tragically, the lovers were kept apart by their social standings and then ultimately by death, ending in the song “Death of the Troubadour.”

Sanchez’s performance was as much a concert as a theatrical showcase, solidified by the nontraditional concert venue and elements of set and lighting design. During “Only Girl,” lights from opposite ends of the stage flashed in alternation to illuminate one side of Sanchez’s face at a time, creating a stunning sight. For more somber numbers like “Send My Heart With a Kiss,” the stage was bathed in lights of soft pastels as Sanchez looked out into the audience, face full of feeling.

Sanchez’s raw displays of emotion through his singing, particularly evident in ballads “Something About Her” and his most well-known “Until I Found You,” were particularly impressive. He captivated the audience with his use of dynamics. He had an extraordinary ability to switch between soft-singing in the intros and outros and soaring high notes in passionate moments. 

In more energetic numbers, the floor shook as the audience stomped their feet. Many’s excitement appeared to have begun long before the concert. Some were dressed in 1950s fashion to match Sanchez’s costume style, which was reminiscent of Elvis’ era and 1950s “Greasers.” Hair slicked back, Sanchez pranced across the stage in a classy black blazer layered over a white shirt.

Having celebrated his birthday the day before, Sanchez had his family at the venue to support him. He introduced them as the first audience for his music, discovering them through his request or by accident. He then called his listeners his family members. Sanchez showed care for his fans throughout the concert, even stopping one of his numbers to get an audience member some water.

Much like the troubadour captured the heart of Evangeline, Sanchez had his audience captivated. He crafted a tale in which the fictional love story intertwined with his real life, and the audience followed along his journey passionately.

Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective thoughts, opinions and critiques.

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