Joni Mitchell, the revered Canadian singer-songwriter and one of many defining musicians of the Nineteen Sixties and ’70s, stunned an viewers in Rhode Island on Sunday when she appeared at the Newport Folk Festival to carry out her first full set in about twenty years, guitar in hand.
Mitchell, by no means one for the limelight, has remained largely out of the general public eye since having a brain aneurysm in 2015. As she recovered, she made a couple of transient appearances: In December, she gave a rare public speech as she accepted a Kennedy Center Honor, and in April, made a televised look at the Grammys and was honored at a gala for MusiCares, a Grammy-affiliated charity.
But on Sunday, Mitchell, 78, sporting a beret and sun shades, performed some of her most iconic songs, together with “Carey,” “Big Yellow Taxi” and “Both Sides Now.”
At one level, Mitchell, an electrical guitar slung over her shoulder, carried out a several-minutes-long solo throughout “Just Like This Train,” as followers whooped and cheered.
“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,” the singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, who sang backup for Mitchell throughout her competition look, said in a Tweet.
Having “looked at life from so many sides,” Mitchell has come “out of the storm singing like a prophet,” she added.
Although Mitchell has restricted her appearances in recent times, she has not prevented the headlines.
In January, Mitchell joined Neil Young in boycotting the streaming service Spotify, over its function in giving a platform to Covid-19 vaccine misinformation.
“Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives,” Mitchell wrote of the corporate at the time. She added, “I stand in solidarity with Neil Young and the global scientific and medical communities on this issue.”
On Sunday, a number of musicians, together with Carlile, flanked Mitchell onstage, and sang along with her. “I will never be over this. I can’t even watch it without the tears coming back,” Carlile wrote afterward Twitter. “Please forgive me.”
As Mitchell and Carlile sang “A Case of You” from the influential “Blue” album, launched greater than 50 years in the past, Mitchell sang:
Oh, I might drink a case of you, darling
And I’d nonetheless be on my toes
Oh, I’d nonetheless be on my toes.
The crowd roared.