Stephen Sanchez w/ Cece Coakley• March 4, 2023• The Grand at The Complex
Reviewed and Photographed by Josilyn Wakkuri Lybbert
Fans packed in The Grande at The Complex on Saturday, March 4th, to catch the sold-out Salt Lake City stop of Stephen Sanchez’s first ever tour! Stephen was joined by the wonderful Cece Coakley for this portion of the tour!
I first became a fan of Stephen’s music a few years ago. Back when he only had one song, “Lady By The Sea, ” out on streaming platforms. So I was really looking forward to getting the chance to experience his music live! Since I first came across his music, the twenty-year-old artist has substantially grown his discography and his fan base. His song, “Until I Found You,” went viral last year. It could often be found backing sweet moments or videos on various social media platforms.
When I got to the venue around 5:30 pm, around fifty people were already lined up. Some even said that the first people in line had arrived at 9 am! The weather, while it could’ve been worse, definitely wasn’t ideal for waiting in for hours. But it just goes to show what people will do for live music!
The doors opened at 7 pm, and everyone was eager to get inside the venue. Some dashed to get a good spot, while others waited in line to snag some concert merchandise! 8 o’clock quickly rolled around and the show began with a performance from Cece Coakley!
Cece took the stage with a smile on her face that didn’t leave for her entire performance. Her sweet, bubbly personality seemed to instantly make everyone feel at home with her. She has a strong voice that’s so easy on the ears. The crowd appeared to love her and her music from the start, and they let her know it! People would yell, “I love you!” to her many times throughout her set. Cece he was visibly honored as her smile grew.
The crowd seemed especially thrilled about her song, “Cliché,” as they cheered when she announced it. The fun song listed a number of cliches and related them to how it feels to love someone. I was impressed by the wit of the lyrics! All of the songs she sang were so easy and peaceful to listen to! She also played songs such as “Listerine,” “Perfect Strangers,” and, “Anything.” She told the cute story of “Anything”. Coakley said that she had written it about a guy she liked. She then shared the song on Instagram, the guy noticed, and now they’re dating! For one song, she taught the crowd a little part of it and asked them to sing it in her direction. They enthusiastically delivered! Before we knew it, her time on stage was over. She put on a great show and was so loved by the audience!
Time passed quickly between the end of Cece’s set and the beginning of Stephen’s. The lights went down and clips of Stephen’s songs began to play while the lights on stage flashed different colors. As the song clips sped up, so did the lights, and the crowd grew more and more excited. It all went dark again, and the band appeared on the stage and began to play, “Hey Girl.” Then, Stephen joined them in a bright red suit.
He made his way across the stage, greeting his fans and exuding an energy that made it clear that he was just as excited to be there as they were! The crowd, made up mostly of teenage to twenty-something-year-old girls, were absolutely beside themselves. They were beaming from ear to ear, from the second he stepped on stage. Some cried tears of joy, others sang his lyrics passionately back to him or excitedly waved whenever he’d glance their way. I love getting to be a part of people experiencing the music and artist they love in person!
“Hey Girl,” was followed by, “Hold Her While You Can,” which is a sweet, upbeat song. It really got the party started! I was blown away by Stephen’s energy and stage presence that was so consistently good and personalized to each song! For this song in particular, there were points where he would jam out with his bandmates and jump and dance around the stage with energy that I could only dream of!
Stephen was very interactive with the audience. He read some signs that fans had made and had a few little conversations with others. He would make eye contact with or faces at people throughout the crowd, and I’m sure those people won’t ever forget that! Stephen was great about expressing what a song meant to him or what it was about, and few times throughout the night, after he was done talking and before the song began, he’d throw in an, “I love you,” that would result in the sentiment being yelled back to him. He also mentioned that he was happy to be in Salt Lake City for the first time where he wasn’t just stuck overnight in the airport!
As the show went on, he played songs such as, “Lady By The Sea,” “Mountain Peaks,” “I Want You,” “The Pool,” and his newest release, “Evangeline.” The swoon-worthy song gives off a vintage, 1960s vibe, and Stephen’s performance followed suit. Remember what I mentioned about his stage presence? For this song, it was like he transported us all back in time for a moment while he performed. I heard a few people say that during that song especially, he reminded them of clips they had seen of Elvis performing, and I definitely agree!
Fans were favored with not one, not two, but three unreleased songs that were performed for them that night! Two of the songs were called, “Only Girl,” and, “Amy & Mary,” and they were so much fun! A lot of the time, it seems like when a headlining artist plays a song that those in attendance haven’t heard before, the atmosphere kind of slows down or people may even take the time as an opportunity for a quick break, but not at a Stephen Sanchez concert!
Everyone was over the moon to get to hear the new music, and the whole crowd jumped up and down almost in sync and, I’m sure, are eagerly awaiting for a release date for for both of those songs! The other unreleased song was called, “Stay,” and it started out the acoustic portion of Stephen’s set. It was a beautiful, slow song, and the otherwise loud crowd, fell quiet, almost reverent, to listen to it and take it all in.
After, “Stay,” Stephen covered the Righteous Brother’s popular hit, “Unchained Melody.” It was gorgeous, and his voice was powerful and moving throughout the entire song. But the iconic covers didn’t stop there. Stephen also covered, “Bennie And The Jets,” by Elton John and, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” by Queen, and again, he blew those out of the water! The crowd seemed especially excited about, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and passionately sang along.
As the night began to draw to a close, one of the last songs Stephen sang was his most popular hit, “Until I Found You,” and the crowd was ecstatic. They sang their hearts out right along with him!
When the show ended, Stephen and his band tossed drumsticks, guitar picks, and setlist-turned-paper airplanes into the crowd. It was cool to see yet another fun interaction that those on stage made a point to provide to the fans!
Stephen Sanchez is as entertaining and talented as they get, and he put on a phenomenal show for Salt Lake City! I’m sure I can vouch for all in attendance that October, which will be Stephen’s next stop in Salt Lake, couldn’t come soon enough!
Saturday night was definitely a night well spent, filled with great music thanks to Cece Coakley and Stephen Sanchez!