“I just realised that Joni is the least nervous person up here,” said Brandi Carlile in the middle of her tribute to Joni Mitchell at the Newport Folk Festival. It was her first full-length concert in 20 years.
Mitchell, who had last played at the festival 53 years ago, in 1969, held court over 13 songs while a star-studded group of musicians (Carlile, Blake Mills, Lucius, Wynonna, Celisse, Taylor Goldsmith, Marcus Mumford, and many more) sat on couches on stage and played a mix of her favourite oldies (“Why Do Fools Fall in Love,” “Love Potion No. 9”) and a variety of Mitchell’s best songs. Follow stoptechy to get more latest news.
Mitchell started the show by sitting on a throne and sometimes singing along to her own songs, with singers like Carlile (“Carey”) Goldsmith (1991’s “Come In From the Cold”) and Celisse (“Help Me”) joining her. But by the end of the hour-plus performance, the 78-year-old singer, who just recently sang on stage for the first time in almost a decade, had stood up, played a long guitar solo (“Just Like This Train”), and sung a moving baritone lead vocal on Gershwin’s “Summertime,” as well as tear-jerking versions of “Both Sides Now” and “Circle Game.”
The “Joni Jams” were informal gatherings of A-list musicians at Mitchell’s home in Los Angeles in the years after Mitchell’s aneurysm. People like Carlile, Elton John, Herbie Hancock, and Bonnie Raitt would gather around Mitchell and trade songs and stories. Carlile, who put together and organised the whole set, said in the beginning of the performance, “No one brings folk singers together like the humility of trying out a new song in front of Joni fucking Mitchell.”