Up until recently, it felt safe to assume that the legendary Joni Mitchell might be done with gigging for good. The hugely influential folk singer-songwriter, responsible for classic albums such as Blue, Both Sides, Now, and Court and Spark, released her final studio album Shine in 2007, and quit touring for good that same year. Though she made occasional appearances as a speaker over the next decade, she was also contending with a number of health issues including a brain aneurysm rupture and the lengthy period of recovery that followed.
This all changed last year, however, when Mitchell made an unannounced appearance at Newport Folk Festival. The artist came on as a surprise guest during a set billed as Brandi Carlile and Friends, for a thirteen song set featuring collaborators such as Marcus Mumford, Celisse, and Brandi Carlile. The incredibly special show is now set to be immortalised in forthcoming live album Joni Mitchell at Newport, out on July 28 - and Mitchell has also confirmed her first full live show in over twenty years. She last performed a headline set in 2004 at Los Angeles’ Wiltern.
Her 2022 rendition of classic track Both Sides Now, at Newport, was spellbinding, and hugely emotional. Now 80-years-old, Mitchell’s voice has evolved over the years and taken on new cracks and rough edges; originally released in 1966, the song’s lyrics took on a new poignancy as she seemed to look back over her remarkable life. “So many things I would have done,” she sang, “But clouds got in my way”.
This weekend, her live hiatus will officially be over, it seems: on June 10, Mitchell is set to perform at the Gorge Amphitheatre in Quincy, Washington. Once again, she’ll be sharing the stage with her friend and collaborator Carlile. “No one’s been able to buy a ticket to see Joni Mitchell play in 20 years – so this is enormous,” Carlile said in a statement. Like Mitchell’s performance at Newport, which included a supporting cast of musicians and collaborators, the show is being billed as a Joni Jam.
Based on her Newport appearance, it seems likely that Mitchell could well air some of her all time classics; at that show, Big Yellow Taxi, A Case of You, Both Sides Now and her cover of George Gershwin’s Summertime were all present in the setlist.