Joni Mitchell steals the show with her first full set in more than 20 years at Newport Folk Festival

Joni Mitchell, the legendary Canadian singer-songwriter who was a pivotal figure in the music industry during the 1960s and '70s, wowed the crowd at the recent Newport Folk Festival by performing her first full set in more than two decades. In her first appearance at the annual gathering since 1969, Mitchell appeared wearing dark shades, glittering beads, a beret and a grey-toned satin pant ensemble. She held court with a star-studded crew of musicians including country musician and friend Brandi Carlile, Marcus Mumford, Wynonna Judd, Blake Mills, Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of the band Lucius, and Mitchell’s own bandmates Phil and Tim Hanseroth and Celisse Henderson, reports The Guardian.

"This scene shall be forever known henceforth as the Joni Jam!" Carlile declared at the festival, referring to the much-discussed private "Joni Jam" nights that Mitchell has held at her Los Angeles home in recent years with the likes of Elton John, Bonnie Raitt and Herbie Hancock. According to NPR, the 78-year-old folk icon looked and sounded regal as she performed some of her most iconic songs on Sunday including "Carey," "Big Yellow Taxi," "Amelia," "Both Sides Now" and "Help Me." At one point during the now-historic 13-song set, Mitchell also performed a several-minute-long guitar solo during "Just Like This Train," to a roar of cheers from stunned fans.

The revolutionary singer-songwriter's last full live show was at The Wiltern in Los Angeles on 13 November 2002. Mitchell has remained largely out of the public eye since suffering a brain aneurysm in 2015. However, as she recovered, she has made a few brief appearances over the years including at a tribute concert in celebration of her 75th birthday in 2018. The revolutionary singer-songwriter gave a rare public speech at the Kennedy Center Honors gala in December 2021 where she was among the recipients. Earlier this year, in April, Mitchell was named MusiCares person of the year and made a televised appearance at the Grammys.

Despite her limited appearances in recent years, the icon has not entirely avoided the headlines. In January, Mitchell joined Neil Young in boycotting the streaming service Spotify by removing her catalog from the platform in protest of the company giving a platform to COVID-19 vaccine misinformation. "Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives," she said at the time. "I stand in solidarity with Neil Young and the global scientific and medical communities on this issue."
Meanwhile, Mitchell has also been working on a collection of archival releases that will include demos, previously unseen material and covers. The first, "Joni Mitchell Archives Vol 1: The Early Years (1963-1967)", was released in October 2020 and included in the liner notes a rare new interview with Cameron Crowe. "Joni's looked at life from so many sides and she came out of the storm singing like a prophet," Carlile, who has diligently worked to ensure Mitchell's place at the center of popular music history for the past five years, said in a Twitter post. "After all she's been through, she returned to the Newport Folk Fest stage after 53 years and I will never forget sitting next to her while she stopped this old world for a while."

"I will never be over this. I can't even watch it without the tears coming back. Please forgive me... I can't find the words yet. There's so much value and peace in our way pavers. Hold them up extra high today. It's never too late. Joni Mitchell TRIUMPHS at Newport," she added.

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