I cannot believe that it’s been a year since U2 released Songs of Innocence. Has it really been a year since they gave us the most awesome surprise gift ever? U2start.com kindly reminded us of this momentous occasion on Twitter:

Looking back on my previous post about it, it has in fact been a year since I woke up to the glorious news of a free surprise album and ran around like a headless chicken trying to download and sync it to my iPod. It’s hard to believe it, not just because of time flying and all that, but because I’ve barely scratched the surface of how good this album is.

That’s the thing about U2’s music. It’s not the kind that you can just play in the background while you’re doing something else. It’s rare for me to listen to their songs and instantly fall in love with them (well, except for “Invisible”. That’s a great song, and after the break from their album No Line On The Horizon, it felt like a joyful reunion). U2’s music requires active listening. It asks you to really pay attention to the whole songs. And boy, does it give back. “Every Breaking Wave” and “Song for Someone” were my favorites from the first listen of Songs of Innocence, with their soaring and uplifting melodies. But then you go beyond Bono’s beautiful words, and you hear Edge’s masterful guitar. This leads to a renewed appreciation of songs like “Cedarwood Road” and “Volcano”. Repeated listens begin to highlight Adam’s bass and Larry’s drumming, and then “Iris (Hold Me Close)” and “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)” shine further. The drums on “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)” are my current obsession, with the way they sort of hesitate. Then there are those songs that are elevated (no pun intended. hah.) when played live, like “Volcano” and “Raised By Wolves”. (Watching live streams on Periscope counts as hearing them live, yes? I won’t let the haters purists tell me otherwise, because when you can’t fly yourself from the Philippines to Europe to watch their shows, Periscope is as live as you’re gonna get.)

It finally feels like U2 is back. I was so lucky to see them on their U2360 tour. But even with that tour supposedly in support of their last album, the aforementioned No Line…, they played at most 3 songs from that. 3 songs. From a new album. That is practically unheard of. So now it can be said. Although that experience remains one of the highlights of my life, there was a certain sadness about it, with this feeling that their latest album (at the time) was not as good as we all wanted it to be, and with some doubts if they would ever bounce back. With the success of their Innocence + Experience tour, all of those negative vibes are left behind (hey, another pun for you U2ers out there). They sing almost all the tracks from Songs… on their shows, and even break out some rarities and songs that haven’t been played live in decades. Someone once said that Songs… feels like U2 waited 30 years to release their first album, and that’s exactly how it feels. Like they got back their joy. Maybe because they went back and wrote about themselves instead of the world. It’s like getting to know them again, yet for the first time.  That exuberance comes through in their shows. They’re singing gems – no, gifts – like “Bad” again. And the best part? Let me preface it by this tweet:

(That’s me, by the way).

“Shine Like Stars” is just a snippet really, a verse that was never recorded but that Bono used to sing live at the end of “With or Without You”. It is so beautiful and powerful that I had it tattooed on my shoulder. But Bono very rarely sings it that it’s become U2’s unicorn. Every time they sing “With or Without You”, we collectively hold our breath in a “will he/won’t he sing it” moment of agony.  But ultimately Bono would just close out the song the normal way.

It’s become a game for fans to speculate if they would ever sing it again. But in their Turin show just last week, guess what happened? Yup, Shine Like effing Stars.  Of course, it had to happen the one time I just couldn’t stay up for the live stream, what with being 8 hours ahead of Italy and all. But no matter. They finally did it! And U2 fans are heroes for sharing their videos with the rest of us. (Youtuber Mek Vox, in particular, is a god.)

I know I said that I get why Bono has haters. I was being facetious then, so this time I will try sincerity and earnestness. I sincerely and earnestly think that all the haters can shove it.