Canadian music icon Joni Mitchell surprised fans with her first complete show in more than 20 years, when she took the stage at the Newport Folk Festival over the weekend.
Mitchell, 78, appeared alongside folk singer Brandi Carlile Sunday night at the Rhode Island festival, performing some of her top hits and even treating the crowd to a guitar solo.
Mitchell and Carlile looked like the rock royalty they are as they perched in two ornate white chairs with gilded gold trim, belting out a 13-song tribute set performed in Mitchell’s honour.
Mitchell has largely been retired from music since she suffered a brain aneurysm in 2015. But Carlile told CBS This Morning she was on a mission to convince the folk music legend to get back up on stage.
“I just pictured her up there, the water, the fort, and the boats…,” Carlile explained.
Despite being a prolific musician, Mitchell revealed she had hesitations about getting back up on stage — she hasn’t performed live since 2013.
She told CBS that although she’s “never been nervous” about a performance she “wanted it to be good. … I wasn’t sure it would be.” She said she was pleased with how things went and said “it didn’t sound so bad.”
Mitchell and Carlile were joined onstage by several longtime musician friends and collaborators like Wynonna Judd, Blake Mills, Marcus Mumford, Taylor Goldsmith and Lucius. Together they performed some of Mitchell’s biggest hits, like Both Sides Now, A Case of You and Summertime.
She also played guitar during Just Like This Train — a skill she had to relearn after her aneurysm.
To say Mitchell fans were elated by the surprise performance would be an understatement. Both those who watched in-person and those who woke up to online videos of the set Monday morning expressed the joy and emotion they felt watching the folk legend’s return to the stage.
Earlier this year, Mitchell made an appearance at the Grammy Awards, receiving the 2022 MusiCares Person of the Year as well as collecting a trophy for Best Historical Album for her retrospective album, Joni Mitchell Archives, Vol 1: The Early Years (1963-1967).