Folk legend Joni Mitchell performs surprise show at Newport Folk Festival

Joni Mitchell performs at the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island on July 24, 2022. PHOTO: NEWPORTFOLKFEST/INSTAGRAM

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Joni Mitchell, a revered Canadian singer-songwriter and one of the defining musicians of the 1960s and 1970s, surprised an audience in Rhode Island in the United States on Sunday (July 24) when she appeared at the Newport Folk Festival to perform her first full set in about two decades, guitar in hand.

Mitchell, never one for the limelight, has remained largely out of the public eye since having a brain aneurysm in 2015.

As she recovered, she made a few brief appearances: In December, she gave a rare public speech as she accepted a Kennedy Centre Honour, and in April, she made a televised appearance at the Grammys and was honoured at a gala for MusiCares, a Grammy-affiliated charity.

But on Sunday, Mitchell, 78, wearing a beret and sunglasses, performed some of her most iconic songs, including Carey, Big Yellow Taxi and Both Sides Now.

At one point, Mitchell, an electric guitar slung over her shoulder, performed a several-minutes-long solo during Just Like This Train, as fans whooped and cheered.

"After all she's been through, she returned to the Newport Folk Fest stage after 53 years and I will never forget sitting next to her while she stopped this old world for a while," singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, who sang backup for Mitchell during her festival appearance, said in a Twitter post.

Having "looked at life from so many sides", Mitchell has come "out of the storm singing like a prophet", Carlile, 41, added.

Although Mitchell has limited her appearances in recent years, she has not avoided the headlines.

In January, Mitchell joined singer-songwriter Neil Young in boycotting streaming service Spotify over its role in giving a platform to Covid-19 vaccine misinformation.

"Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives," Mitchell wrote of the company at the time.

She added: "I stand in solidarity with Neil Young and the global scientific and medical communities on this issue."

On Sunday, several musicians, including Carlile, flanked Mitchell onstage and sang with her.

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"I will never be over this. I can't even watch it without the tears coming back," Carlile wrote later on Twitter. "Please forgive me."

As Mitchell and Carlile sang A Case Of You from the influential Blue album, released more than 50 years ago, Mitchell sang: "Oh, I could drink a case of you, darling/And I would still be on my feet/Oh, I would still be on my feet."

The crowd roared.

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