In 2022, when Joni Mitchell appeared during Brandi Carlile's set at the Newport Folk Festival, it was perhaps the most surprising guest appearance possible. Joni Mitchell had not performed in public since suffering a stroke in 2015. The audience probably expected Mitchell to sing one or two songs, but she played an entire surprise set accompanied by Carlile.
A clip from the festival of Mitchell singing Both Sides Now is on Youtube, and it's amazing! The then 78-year-old Mitchell sits regally on a throne while Carlile looks on, like a regular fan who can't believe she's sitting next to Joni Mitchell during her historic comeback.
Now that performance is being released as a live album, with liner notes written by Cameron Crowe.
Throughout the past few years, Mitchell has been holding sessions at her home in Laurel Canyon to aid in her recovery; they were dubbed "Joni jams." Guests at the Jono Jams included Elton John, Paul McCartney, Bonnie Raitt, Harry Styles, Chaka Khan, Marcus Mumford, and Herbie Hancock. With the Newport set also featuring Wynona Judd and Marcus Mumford, in addition to Carlile, it was pretty much just a huge-scale Joni Jam.
Judging by that Both Sides Now clip, the intimacy of the performance will come through on the recording. More live albums should be recorded with a grinning fan beside the performer, which would be a perfect role for Brandi Carlile. She is the sort of musician who uses her profile to boost the legends who inspired her. Brandi Carlile really is the MVP here who made this all happen, having organized the Joni Jams and inviting Mitchell to perform at her set.
After the show, Mitchell told Carlile, "I want to do another show. I want to play again", and shortly afterward, Carlile announced that Joni Mitchell would perform a headlining show in Washington, which will be coming up on June 10th.
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