Joni Mitchell hadn’t performed a full set in roughly 22 years when she took to the Newport Folk Festival stage. For fans, it was never going to be a sink or swim moment—it was always going to see Mitchell soar.
However, for the 78-year-old star, her live return wasn’t quite as forgone, and she worried how her return alongside Brandi Carlile would come over. Luckily, she concluded, “I didn’t sound too bad.”
Speaking to CBS, the folk sensation said: “No, I’ve never been nervous about being in front of an audience. But I want it to be good. And I wasn’t sure I could be. But I didn’t sound too bad tonight.”
Indeed, her performance has been lauded by pretty much everyone. With a huskier voice than we have come to know, she crooned her way through the 13-song classic set with an air of grace and talent still clearly in abundance. This was quite the feat considering many thought she would never perform again after suffering a brain aneurysm in 2015.
However, Mitchell hopefully hinted that she is recovering and may well have further live shows ahead of her. “I’m looking at videos that are on the net to see where I put my fingers, you know. It’s amazing what an aneurysm knocks out – how to get out of the chair,” she said.
Continuing: “You don’t know how to get out of a bed. You have to learn all these things by rote again. I was into water ballet as a kid, and I forgot how to do the breaststroke. Every time I tried it, I just about drowned, you know? So, a lot of going back to infancy almost. You have to relearn everything.”
Her friend Brandi Carlile took a less modest approach and told the fateful tale of how the inspirational show came about. “The first time she opened her mouth and sang ‘Summertime’ and I saw Herbie Hancock burst into tears and everybody in the room catch their breath because she had decided to sing, really decided to sing, you know, I knew,” she said.
Concluding: “I knew she’d do it at Newport. I can’t really say how I knew it. I just pictured her out there. I pictured the water and the fort and the boats.” Adding that the all-star band was bound to fall in place thereafter, “No one brings folk singers together like the humility of trying out a new song in front of Joni f–king Mitchell,”
Let’s hope that there can be some further performances ahead.