Watch Joni Mitchell’s Surprise Newport Folk Fest Performance
These days, Joni Mitchell is functionally retired. Even before she suffered a brain aneurysm in 2015, Mitchell rarely made any sort of public appearance. Yesterday, however, Mitchell played a surprise 13-song set at the Newport Festival, performing alongside an all-star group of friends and collaborators. This was Mitchell’s first full set since 2000, and it was her first time performing at the Newport Folk Fest since 1969.
Earlier this year, Mitchell was honored at the pre-Grammys MusiCares gala, where she was named Person Of The Year and where she got onstage to sing a couple of songs. That performance was Mitchell’s first in nearly a decade. Yesterday’s Newport set was considerably more ambitious than that. Michell’s set, called the Joni Jam, was not previously announced, and it included renditions of beloved classics like “A Case Of You,” “Big Yellow Taxi,” and “Both Sides Now,” as well as covers of some of Mitchell’s favorite oldies.
Mitchell sang while seated on a sort of throne, and she often shared lead vocals with her friend Brandi Carlile, a prominent Mitchell admirer who has covered Mitchell’s Blue album onstage more than once. The set also featured help from people like Marcus Mumford, Wynonna Judd, Lucius, Blake Mills, and Taylor Goldsmith. Mitchell’s voice was weathered but evocative, and she also picked up a guitar to play the solo from “Just Like This Train.” There’s something terribly moving about seeing the clearly delighted 78-year-old Joni Mitchell return to performing like that. Below, watch some fan-made videos from the set — plus Mitchell, Carlile, and Mumford discussing the concert on CBS Mornings — and check out the setlist.
02 “Come In From The Cold” (with Taylor Goldsmith)
03 “Help Me” (with Celisse Henderson)
04 “A Case Of You” (with Marcus Mumford & Brandi Carlile)
05 “Big Yellow Taxi” (with Brandi Carlile)
06 “Just Like This Train”
07 “Why Do Fools Fall On Love” (Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers cover)
08 “Amelia” (with Taylor Goldsmith)
09 “Love Potion #9” (The Clovers cover)
11 “Summertime” (George Gershwin cover)
12 “Both Sides Now”
13 “The Circle Game”