“I have to say it’s difficult to share the stage with a true great world leader,” U2 guitarist The Edge said moments after Bill Clinton gave a rousing speech honoring him at the Can-Do Awards in New York City last night. “A man with charisma to burn. A man who’s been the most powerful person in the world dealing with world leaders — but enough about Bono.”
The Can-Do Awards is an annual event held by the Food Bank for New York City — a stunning organization that feeds over 250,000 people a day in New York alone. Jimmy Fallon and The Edge were both honored this year for their charitable works, and the turn-out was predictably A-list: David Bowie and his wife Iman, Michael Stipe, Elvis Costello, Adam Clayton, Mike Diamond, Mike Mills, Julianne Moore, Helena Christensen and Patti Smith were among the throngs of stars who showed up to pay their respects at the plush ceremony at Chelsea’s Pier 60. Through auctions and donations the single-night event raised over $1 million.
During his speech, Clinton — who received a warmer welcome than any of the legendary rock stars — proved to the assembled crowd (lest they forget) that he is indeed the greatest public speaker in the world. “I’ve watched [The Edge] deal with personal pain and staggering professional success,” he said. “Both normally break people — too much success and too much pain. He just keeps making time for other people.” Clinton also revealed that he knows a thing of two about rock. “In my opinion there’s no way he could ever get enough credit for the success of U2. If you’re the kind of person The Edge is and you can make a guitar do the kind of things he can do, you’ve made a contribution to how things sound in a way almost nobody else gets to do.”
Elvis Costello closed out the night by performing a powerful solo acoustic version of “Where the Streets Have No Name,” with added verses from both “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.” His set was a surprise and a treat for honoree The Edge, who told Rolling Stone that the set blew his mind. But the U2 guitarist was even more candid about his feelings for the real star of the evening — the Food Bank for New York City. “This charity is the best example of what makes New York work and what makes it so special. 250,000 fed a day. Think about that. That’s like an army. It’s a phenomenal thing and it can only happen if there’s a will to make it happen. That’s what’s so inspiring to me.”