After nearly two decades, music legend Joni Mitchell made a triumphant return to the spotlight alongside Grammy-award winner Brandi Carlile at Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island on Sunday, July 24.
The surprise appearance served as Mitchell’s first full set concert since the early 2000s after suffering a brain aneurysm. The sudden health complication left the beloved vocalist unable to talk or walk.
Carlile worked with the festival to make the stage resemble Mitchell’s living room to bring the memorable moment to new heights. While focusing on her long recovery, the world-renowned songstress held a respected series titled “Joni Jams” from her very own Bel Air home featuring notable names in the industry. The “Crowded Table” singer-songwriter placed quaint furniture on stage and asked a star-studded band to accompany the 78-year-old hitmaker.
The backing ensemble included Taylor Goldsmith, Mumford & Sons’ Marcus Mumford, Blake Mills, Lucius’ Holly Laessig, members of Carlile’s band, and country phenomenon Wynonna Judd. The emotional set included old classics like “Why Do Fools Fall in Love,” “Love Portion No. 9,” and a wide array of fan favorites from her impressive catalog such as – “A Case of You,” “Help Me,” and “Carey.” Although her guitar solo on “Just Like This Train” wowed fans, her duet with Carlile on “Both Sides Now” emotionally impacted the audience even more.
Following the lengthy show, country star Maren Morris took to Twitter (July 25) to admire the historic act.
“Me sobbing at Wynonna sobbing at @jonimitchell + @brandicarlile singing “Both Sides Now” at @Newportfolkfest last night 😭 what a moment,” she wrote alongside a clip featuring the jaw-dropping rendition.
Listeners not in attendance thanked Morris for highlighting the chill-provoking performance.
“Was crying by the end of the final line 😭 Please let @brandicarlile know just how thankful we are for this moment,” said a follower. “Thank you for posting this! So moving…What an icon/ legend.”
The collaboration between Carlile and Mitchell did not come as a surprise, as they consider each other tight-knit friends. Carlile relatively recently spoke out about their relationship at the MusiCares Foundation annual pre-Grammy event. The black-tie affair that honored the Canadian sensation and her contributions to the music industry, marked Mitchell’s first time back on the stage.
“What would make her proud? What would make her laugh? I wanted to help her realize how relevant she is to the multiple generations,” Carlile told USA Today ahead of the tribute. “Everyone wants to sing in front of Joni, and no one wants to sing in front of Joni,” she added on the red carpet.
To this day, Carlile continues to praise the trailblazer. On the heels of the Folk Festival performance, the Americana crossover artist penned a sweet message to the soloist who left an ever-lasting mark on her artistry.
“Joni’s looking at life from so many sides, and she came out of the storm singing like a prophet,” she wrote. “After all she’s been through, she returned to the @newportfolkfest stage after 53 years, and I will never forget sitting next to her while she stopped this old world for a while…I will never be over this. I can’t even watch it without the tears coming back. Please forgive me…I can’t quite find the words yet. There’s so much value and peace in our way pavers. Hold them up extra high today. It’s never too late. Joni Mitchell TRIUMPS at Newport!”