Joni Mitchell gave her first full live performance since 2002 at this weekend’s Newport Folk festival. Mitchell, 78, joined country musician and friend Brandi Carlile at the festival to perform Mitchell classics including A Case of You, Both Sides Now and Big Yellow Taxi. During the 13-song set, Mitchell also performed the guitar solo from Just Like This Train.
Joining her and Carlile – who has covered Mitchell’s 1971 album Blue in full – were Marcus Mumford, Wynonna Judd, Blake Mills, Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of the band Lucius, and Mitchell’s bandmates Phil and Tim Hanseroth and Celisse Henderson: a live version of the 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.
“I just realised, Joni’s the least nervous person up here,” Carlile told the crowd.
As well as renditions of Mitchell songs including Carey, Amelia and Circle Game, the group also covered Gershwin’s Summertime, Frankie Lymon’s Why Do Fools Fall in Love and Leiber and Stoller’s Love Potion No 9. Watch videos of the performance at Pitchfork and read the setlist below.
Mitchell’s last full live show was at the Wiltern in Los Angeles on 13 November 2002. She last appeared at the Newport folk festival in 1969 on the same bill as Arlo Guthrie and the Everly Brothers.
Since having a brain aneurysm in 2015, Mitchell has made a steady return to public life. She was present at a tribute concert in celebration of her 75th birthday in 2018 and appeared on stage as other musicians performed Big Yellow Taxi to blow out the candles on her birthday cake.
To mark the 50th anniversary of Blue in June 2021, Mitchell shared a video thanking fans for “getting” an album that originally “fell heir to a lot of criticism” – namely that her candid lyrics were undignified oversharing. She appeared at the Kennedy Center Honors gala in December 2021 – telling reporters, “I’m hobbling along but I’m doing all right” – where she was among the recipients. In April, Mitchell was named MusiCares person of the year and gave a brief performance at the ceremony to honour her.
Mitchell is also working on a series of archival releases to share demos, previously unheard material and covers. The first, Joni Mitchell Archives Vol 1: The Early Years (1963–1967), was released in October 2020 and featured a rare new interview by Cameron Crowe in the liner notes.
In January, she removed her catalogue from Spotify in solidarity with Neil Young, who directed his management and label to remove his music from the streaming platform given its support of Joe Rogan, whose podcast has been criticised by doctors for spreading misinformation about Covid-19 and vaccination.
“Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives,” Mitchell said. “I stand in solidarity with Neil Young and the global scientific and medical communities on this issue.”
The full setlist of Joni Mitchell’s Newport folk festival performance
Come in from the Cold
Case of You
Big Yellow Taxi
Just Like This Train
Why Do Fools Fall in Love
Love Potion No 9
Both Sides Now
The Circle Game