Joni Mitchell made a glorious return to performing during Sunday’s Newport Folk Festival.
The “Both Sides Now” singer, 78, took the stage alongside Brandi Carlile and friends in her first full set since the early 2000s. It is also a major feat years after a brain aneurysm temporarily left her unable to walk or talk.
Carlile, 41, had already been expected to perform at the festival alongside Wynonna Judd, Lucius’ Holly Laessig, Mumford & Sons’ Marcus Mumford and more, but Mitchell was a surprise guest.
“No one brings folk singers together like the humility of trying out a new song in front of Joni (expletive) Mitchell,” Carlile said while introducing the prolific singer, according to Rolling Stone.
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Mitchell performed 13 songs, most of them while seated on a throne-like chair, in what was dubbed a “Joni Jam” and even strummed out in a guitar solo.
Carlile has long been a fan and friend of Mitchell’s. She had honored the Canadian songstress’ achievements at the 2021 Kennedy Centers Honor ceremony in December and when she was named MusiCares Person of the Year in April.
Mitchell first returned to the stage in April for her tribute at the MusiCares Foundation’s annual pre-Grammys event. MusiCares is the foundation of the Recording Academy and provides health and human service aid to the music community.
On the red carpet before the MusiCares ceremony, Carlile told USA TODAY that her “No. 1 priority” was Mitchell.
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“What would make her proud? What would make her laugh? I wanted to help her realize how relevant she is to multiple generations. Everyone wants to sing in front of Joni and no one wants to sing in front of Joni,” the “Right on Time” the singer said.
Mitchell also discussed the back-to-back honors at the Kennedy Center and MusiCares, saying, “It’s interesting that it’s been happening – and that it took 50 years to get there.”
So to what does Mitchell attribute this new interest in her career?
“Maybe people are getting deeper.”
Contributing: Melissa Ruggieri