The newest release from Bruce Springsteen’s official live album series is a show he played in Nice, France on May 18th, 1997. This was the tail end of the Ghost of Tom Joad tour and features a mixture of new songs like “Straight Time” and “Highway 29” with classics like “The Promised Land and “Atlantic City” and deep cuts like “Red Headed Woman’ and “Highway Patrolman.” To mark the release, the Springsteen archives shared a preview from the concert, “Murder Incorporated.”
“In the States we got a part of our population whose lives and dreams are considered expandable,” he told the crowd before playing the Born In The U.S.A. outtake. “We got murder incorporated.”
The show came 18 months into the Ghost of Tom Joad tour, which largely hit theaters and saw Springsteen play in a solo acoustic format for the first time in his professional career. It was a chance to reconnect with his core audience after his twin 1992 albums, Human Touch and Lucky Town, were met with a mixed reaction from fans and critics, and a chance to play songs that wouldn’t work in an arena setting.
Elvis Costello was in the audience at Nice’s Palais des Congrès Acropolis that night, and Springsteen dedicated the tour premiere of “You Can Look, But You Better Not Touch” to him. “Elvis is in the building, baby!” he told the crowd.
This is the latest in a series of official live albums that Springsteen has been releasing on a monthly basis for the past few years. They touch on nearly all eras of his live career, though it has yet to delve into anything prior to the 1975 Born To Run tour. Many of the shows have circulated before in bootleg form, but the sound quality on these releases is a significant upgrade in every case.
Springsteen originally planned on touring in 2020 of support of his new E Street Band LP A Letter To You, but the pandemic forced him to delay those plans until at least 2022. In the meantime, he’s played a handful of socially-distanced gigs, including the December 12th episode of Saturday Night Live and the Celebrating America concert on Joe Biden’s inauguration day where he played “Land of Hope and Dreams” on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.