Joni Mitchell left music fans speechless when she made a surprise appearance this weekend for her first public concert in nearly 20 years.
The legendary singer-songwriter joined fellow musician Brandi Carlile at the 2022 Newport Folk Festival on Sunday for a 13-song, goosebump-inducing set that included tender renditions of “Big Yellow Taxi” and “A Case of You,” among other classics.
To the delight of the audience and other musical guests including Wynonna Judd, Mitchell also picked up an electric guitar for “Just Like This Train,” a cut from her smash 1974 album, “Court and Spark.”
The nine-time Grammy winner made her first appearance at the Newport Folk Festival in 1967. She returned to the Rhode Island-based fest as part of a bill that included the Everly Brothers and Arlo Guthrie in 1969 ― the same year one of her most enduring hits, “Both Sides Now,” was released.
Watch Mitchell perform “Both Sides Now” below.
According to Carlile, Sunday’s performance was essentially a staged version of the private “Joni Jam” concerts that Mitchell has held at her California home with famous friends like Elton John and Bonnie Raitt. It also marked Mitchell’s first full-scale public concert since November 2002, when she played the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles.
The 78-year-old’s public appearances became increasingly rare after 2015, when she experienced a near-fatal brain aneurysm. She’s made a steady return to public life as of late, appearing at the 2021 Kennedy Center Honors in December and at the 2022 Grammy Awards in April.
Speaking to “CBS Mornings” in an interview that aired Monday, Mitchell seemed to be in great spirits following what was, by all accounts, an artistic triumph.
“I’ve never been nervous about being in front of an audience,” she said. “But I wanted to be good, you know, and I wasn’t sure that I could be. But I didn’t sound too bad tonight.”
She continued, “The surgeon that did the brain surgery on me, he said I have will and grit. ... I think having a brush with death like that kind of softens people towards me.”