U2 received iHeartRadio's Innovator Award at a Los Angeles ceremony Sunday night. "Innovation, I think it's something about searching out the future before it's arrived," Bono said during his and the Edge's acceptance speech. "[It's] making 'what might be' the 'what is.'"
Pharrell Williams presented the singer and guitarist with the trophy, saying, "These guys have literally, literally, literally changed the world, and they speak up for the voiceless and they tell the truth, no matter the cost." He cited their work with Amnesty International and Bono's One Foundation and the band's work with (Red) as examples. Bono responded to the compliments by calling Williams the "essence of rock & roll," as well as a "miracle man" and "risk taker." Williams received the same award in 2014; Justin Timberlake accepted it last year.
"I think the thing that might be the most innovative of all things about our band is that we are a real band," the Edge said at one point. "We are still in our high school band." The audience, which included Justin Bieber in several crowd shots, cheered.
Bono also took a respite during the acceptance speech, which included nods to producers and collaborators Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno, for a humorous turn. "A lot of people will find this hard to believe, and I accept that, but Edge is actually from the future," he said, prompting the guitarist to nod stoically. "And I was going to ask Edge in front of you all, 'What does the future sound like, the Edge?'" The guitarist deadpanned, "Rock & roll," and then smiled broadly.
But by the end of the speech, things turned serious. "We want to dedicate this award to artists from around the world who are innovating in very difficult circumstances," the guitarist said.
"Yes, it's strange to say, there are places around the world where making music is a crime, where you can go to jail for expressing an opinion, where you can get a punch in the face for disagreeing with some politician somewhere," the singer rejoined, grinning at his likely subtextual reference to a certain G.O.P. candidate. "That could never happen here, could it? California, America, rock the vote."
U2 are currently working in a studio in Los Angeles on the follow-up to 2014's Songs of Innocence. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, the Edge guessed they had about 50 song ideas, 20 of which they were seriously considering. "I would say we're now at the point of starting to really edit down to the core collection of songs that will make the record," he said. "Things are still in their rough state, but sounding really great."