Bruce Springsteen's Springsteen On Broadway (and five other live albums you need to hear)
Bruce Springsteen's reputation as a fearsome live performer has long since been cemented with the 1986 release of Live 1975–85, a sprawling collection of highlights from a decade's worth of shows in New York, California and New Jersey that is rightly regarded as one of the finest live albums ever released.
In more recent times the man they call 'The Boss' has continued to impress on the stage, with his 2009 set at Glastonbury becoming one of the most talked-about in the festival's long and storied history.
But, in 2017, he took on a new challenge, looking to perform a series of concerts that were much more intimate than the arena-sized venues normally needed to accommodate the demands of his sizeable fanbase.
In October of that year, Springsteen began a five-days-a-week residency at New York's 960-seat Walter Kerr Theatre on Broadway, delivering a set that combined stripped-back versions of his biggest hits and anecdotes from his recent autobiography Born to Run.
Originally intended to run for just six weeks, demand for tickets was so high that the show was extended again and again, finally reaching its conclusion in December last year after a staggering 14-month run.
The final show was filmed and recorded for a Netflix special due to arrive on the streaming service next week, but in the meantime there's a treat for Springsteen fans who were unable to witness one of the shows in person as a new live album featuring the songs and stories recorded at the Broadway venue arrives in stores this week.
Springsteen on Broadway makes its arrival today on CD (a vinyl box set wil follow in January) and features the same mixture of intimate acoustic renditions and anecdotes as the TV movie that arrives next week. You can find a trailer for the album below, beneath that we've picked out five other great live albums that you really should find time to hear...
Daft Punk – Alive 2007
When Daft Punk played their now-legendary set at Coachella in 2006, revealing for the first time the 'pyramid' stage set-up and blistering live set that would become the basis for their Alive 2007 tour a year later, it's not an exaggeration to say that their show changed the way people thought about how dance music could be performed live at festivals and concert venues, helping to kickstart the EDM scene that would explode across America in the following years.
Their 2007 live album features a honed and refined version of that set, captured at the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy in the duo's home city of Paris. Blending elements from their first three albums and remixing them on the fly, the album forced many critics to reappraise the lukewarm reception given to the pair's third album Human After All, whose songs are given a new lease of life here on what may just be the best live dance music album ever made.
Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison
Most people who have spent any time playing gigs as part of a band will have a story to tell about some rough venue or other, where they've endured a challenging stint on the stage in front of a hostile audience, but Johnny Cash took things to extremes when he decided on the venue for what would become a career-reviving LP for the Man in Black.
Chosen partly because its association with Cash's 1955 hit 'Folsom Prison Blues', the atmosphere inside the California correctional facility adds an eerie layer of malice to proceedings, with audible cheers following one of the title track's most bone-chilling lines: “I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.” Not only did the album revive Cash's career, it also proved to the first live album to become a bona fide hit in America, topping the country charts and reaching the top 15 on the Billboard's main chart.
Donny Hathaway – Live
Donny Hathaway's 1972 live album might not boast the most imaginative title, and with just eight songs it's by far the shortest album on our little list here, but don't let either of these things fool you into overlooking one of the best live albums you'll ever hear. With a first half recorded at The Troubadour in Los Angeles and a second lifted from a performance at New York venue The Bitter End, Live features some truly epic renditions of songs such as 'Voices Inside (Everything Is Everything)' and 'The Ghetto', as well as a handful of stunning cover versions from Marvin Gaye's 'What's Going On?' to Carole King's 'You've Got a Friend'.
But what really makes this album unique is the audiences at both venues, who not only create an electric atmosphere throughout but also manages the increasingly rare feat of clapping in time and adding their own impressive backing vocals, giving the whole thing a real party vibe that's impossible to fake.
Kraftwerk – Minimum-Maximum
You might not think that a group like Kraftwerk, almost as famous for their immobile stage presence as their innovations in electronic music, would be capable of creating a live show with as much palpable electricity as they manage to conjure here, but they didn't name themselves after the German phrase for 'power station' for nothing. Recorded at various venues on their 2004 world tour, Minimum-Maximum works just as well as a live album as it does a concert film, but if you opt for the latter and have a decent surround sound system then we can't recommend the 5.1 mix highly enough.
From set opener 'The Man Machine' - which sounds much more menacing in the original German - through a near-apocalyptic rendition of 'Radioactivity', to an epic, show-closing performance of 'Musique Non-Stop', this is as good as Kraftwerk have ever sounded and an impressive career-spanning showcase for die-hard fans and newcomers alike.
Nirvana – Unplugged in New York
Even before Nirvana's legendary set on MTV's Unplugged took on an added significance in the wake of Kurt Cobain's suicide just a few months later, those who were lucky enough to be in attendance as the Seattle trio recorded their acoustic set in New York knew that they were witnessing something special. On a funereal stage decked out with black candles and stargazer lilies, Cobain and co. delivered a set packed with quietly intense versions of songs such as 'All Apologies' and 'Pennyroyal Tea', as well as some masterful cover versions like David Bowie's 'The Man Who Sold The World' and the show-stopping finale, a cover of Leadbelly's 'Where Did You Sleep Last Night?'. Mesmerising from start to finish, Unplugged in New York is arguably the MTV show's best episode and makes for a stunning live album in its own right.
Springsteen On Broadway is available in hmv stores now – you can also find it here in our online store...