“We want to play for you now a gospel song, a gospel song with a restless spirit”. What a beautiful and succinct way to describe one of the most meaningful hits of the 80s and from an album that’s just as powerful 30 years on as it was in 1987.
U2 would’ve performed I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For hundreds of times since the release of The Joshua Tree back in 87 and a good little chunk of those times I’ve either seen online or on DVD. But never have I seen it done quite like in this clip from Jimmy Kimmel Live just a few days ago.
What starts as a simple interview between talk host and band turns into a surprise live rendition of the song. But then a couple of minutes after Bono’s introduction of the “gospel song with a restless spirit”, a further twist hits when he instructs someone in the crowd to “take it to church”. In that instant the hairs went up on the back of my neck and I remembered why I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For has always got me in a way that’s hard to articulate.
Though that’s not it as far as the surprises go and slowly more and more members of the crowd are revealed as professional singers in a gospel choir. A truly stunning take on a piece of music that resonates lyrically because it dares to be both devout and honest: “You broke the bonds / loosed the chains / carried the cross / of my shame / O my shame / You know I believe it / But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”.
The subtle switch from “of my shame” to “O my shame” also always struck me as small but extremely significant in this conversation between Bono and his maker. And lyrics aside, that’s one killer melody. Fingers crossed those rumours of The Joshua Tree anniversary tour making it to New Zealand turn out to be true.