Just Astonishing
July 26, 2022 4:52 AM   Subscribe

Joni Mitchell performed at the Newport Folk Festival in 1967, fifty-five years ago. This past Sunday, in a surprise appearance with Brandi Carlisle, she returned for another full set, her first in over two decades. More clips inside, have some tissues ready. posted by Ipsifendus (45 comments total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
Joni's YouTube channel has been publishing full albums lately. She's up to Blue.
posted by Bee'sWing at 5:21 AM on July 26 [5 favorites]

I credit Joni Mitchell for helping to rehabilitate the 1970s for me. It was 2013 and I stumbled across Help Me for the first time in decades. I adored that song as a kid back when it would have been new but once well into the 80s I rejected virtually everything from the 1970s as being either overly-indulgent, tasteless or kitschy. But that chance encounter with one of Mitchell's most commercially-successful songs reawakened feelings I haven't had since childhood. That song always made me think of a morning after it has rained with big puffy clouds rolling over a valley. Imagine my surprise when I bought Court and Spark shortly after that to find that the cover artwork (by Mitchell herself) was essentially something like that. I went on to buy Hissing of Summer Lawns and Hejira and those three albums were on repeat for months as I slowly came around to realizing that the 70s actually were kind of a nice time, especially to be a kid.

Anyway, I can't wait to listen to this performance. Mitchell is a treasure and a gift to music that will be recognized for decades to come.
posted by drstrangelove at 5:45 AM on July 26 [7 favorites]

Brandi Carlile has really gone out of her way to be a friend of and a champion to her these last few years and without that kindness, we likely wouldn't get this last act with Joni Mitchell.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:52 AM on July 26 [22 favorites]

I watched that 'Both Sides Now' clip yesterday and just remembering it today I'm tearing up a little. Thanks for this post.
posted by box at 6:49 AM on July 26 [11 favorites]

I wish I knew who all those folks were on stage with Brandi and Joni. This is just a wonderful little jam setup. I hope Joni was having a blast!

And yeah, Brandi has been doing a lot of what I would call The Lord's Work over the past years, and drawing Joni out of her isolation has been part of that.
posted by hippybear at 6:54 AM on July 26 [1 favorite]

I wish I knew who all those folks were on stage with Brandi and Joni.

From NPR's write-up:

"The guests included [Carlile's] bandmates Phil and Tim Hanseroth and Celisse Henderson, and friends Allison Russell, Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius, Blake Mills, Taylor Goldsmith, Marcus Mumford, and Wynonna Judd."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:03 AM on July 26 [7 favorites]

That Both Sides Now really is astonishing. A beautiful song should resonate no matter what age the singer, and that one always has. But hearing it now and how she sings it was such a revelation it almost makes you wonder how she could have written it so young.
posted by Mchelly at 7:15 AM on July 26 [17 favorites]

Thanks. I thought that was Mumford over there.
posted by hippybear at 7:17 AM on July 26 [1 favorite]

There's been a well-deserved outpouring of respect and affection for this, and I am part of it. Thanks for continuing it here.

I own Blue on vinyl and cd. It's so much the the soundtrack to my 70s. When I go back to listen to her earliest work, her voice is amazing, she uses it with such ease. She's a true musician, playing and writing. I'm so happy to be part of this recognition of a living legend.
posted by theora55 at 8:30 AM on July 26 [4 favorites]

Thank you - that's breathtaking.
posted by YoungStencil at 8:31 AM on July 26

I lost it so hard watching "Both Sides Now", I'm afraid to even click the link for "Circle Game".
posted by briank at 8:34 AM on July 26 [7 favorites]

I burst into tears Sunday when I heard she was taking the stage. She's my first my last my everything and her performing in any capacity felt like an impossibility for the last many years. The wide and deep appreciation for her in this performance makes me so so happy.
posted by wemayfreeze at 8:45 AM on July 26 [11 favorites]

Also some excellent song choices from throughout her career

Come in From the Cold from her stellar 1991 record Night Ride Home (here she is doing the title track on the supremely weird/excellent Henson show The Ghost of Faffner Hall)

Why Do Fools Fall In Love was a big piece of the 1979 Shadows and Light tour – here she is on that tour singing it with the Persuasions (w Michael Brecker on sax)

Shine is the title track track to her last record (2007) and is stellar on the album — I'm a fan of Joni's voice throughout her career, with all the changes, and this late period stuff imo shows that she used it to great affect throughout. That song, and others on the record, are also political songs of deep feeling, on the state of the world and the experience of being in it.
posted by wemayfreeze at 9:04 AM on July 26 [3 favorites]

Brandi Carlile has curated the Newport Folk Festival twice: the first time, she brought on Dolly Parton as a surprise headliner; the second time it was Joni Mitchell.

If a person has the chance to go and she's in charge again, it really seems like a golden ticket for something amazing to happen.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:06 AM on July 26 [17 favorites]

also also omg I just got to the end of Shine where Brandi everyone is floating on the last suspended notes and Brandi sings "We're not gonna resolve it / because Joni wouldn't resolve it" and I'm dead 😂
posted by wemayfreeze at 9:14 AM on July 26 [1 favorite]

When my late wife was bedbound, we listened to Travelogue a couple of times together (Joni Mitchell revisiting her oeuvre). It sounded a lot like accepting your goodbyes at the time, and listening to these is going to be quite a sharp one for me, but I suspect that, as it ever was, it'll be worth it.

Travelogue at the time did feel like kind of a statement of punctuation from Joni, a way to say goodbye to the songs the way they had been sung. I wonder if this is a way to give them to others.
posted by aesop at 9:25 AM on July 26 [6 favorites]

a way to say goodbye to the songs the way they had been sung

It seems like there's something of that same impulse in the way she curated Love Has Many Faces, where, for some of the best-known songs, she eschewed the original versions for late-period orchestral ones.
posted by box at 10:06 AM on July 26 [1 favorite]

I was spellbound. Brandi was right, time had indeed stopped.

The only comparison I can come up with is to Ella Fitzgerald's version of Over the Rainbow. We have heard these songs a million times, and maybe they've become cliches, but when they're revisited by a wizened voice with a lifetime of experience, they become new again, impossibly rich. And a great song can bear that weight. A master songwriter, a master performer -- and here they're both Joni.

One for the ages. I don't want this to be her goodbye, but if it is, it's a damn good one. An apotheosis.
posted by Capt. Renault at 10:52 AM on July 26 [2 favorites]

"If a person has the chance to go and she's in charge again, it really seems like a golden ticket for something amazing to happen."

...please say Barry Gibb, please say Barry Gibb...
posted by Capt. Renault at 10:55 AM on July 26 [1 favorite]

That "Both Sides Now" rendition had me sobbing. I listened to her interview from 2004 from the Fresh Air Archives today- she wrote that when she was 21!

Interview is so interesting- she is quite a unique person.
posted by bearette at 11:54 AM on July 26 [1 favorite]

Holy shit I had to brace myself from legit ugly crying all over my work cafeteria.
Her moving with the music says it all. Thank you.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:27 PM on July 26 [1 favorite]

Joni is an amazing artist and it is so wonderful to see her playing and singing again. Her guitar tunings have been an inspirational boost for my own meager playing.
posted by jabo at 12:27 PM on July 26 [2 favorites]

Tissues it is, and I’ve just watched the first one.
I may have to space these out.
posted by MtDewd at 12:47 PM on July 26

I sat right here and ugly cried that I would hear her sing again. She is like the red velvet rope through my entire life, where I could reach over, refer, again and again, yes, it is OK to be free, to have something to say, something to sing, to be, to be a passionate woman, in a time when women were furniture, were endured because of the services they performed. Anyway, I reached for her words aplenty, and floated on her wavering, unique, vibrato.

The sun still kisses the girl I used to be, and I still think of her version of The Urge For Goin', every autumn. Something always calls up her lyrics, her response to what is right in front of me. Winona Judd cried all the way through the set, so wonderful.
posted by Oyéah at 1:00 PM on July 26 [15 favorites]

There are moments her voice fails, or doesn't match the accompanists, and yet every moment is perfect, and perfectly recognizable as Joni. Dylan may have the Nobel, but Joni is truly the best songwriter of her generation.
posted by rikschell at 1:25 PM on July 26 [6 favorites]

Thank you for sharing this. Both Sides Now has always been a special song for me and seeing this version was so...much.
posted by randomnity at 1:37 PM on July 26 [1 favorite]

I would very definitely not be sad if the Highwomen got together to do a Joni Mitchell tribute album.

I would very definitely buy it. Yep.
posted by humbug at 2:44 PM on July 26 [2 favorites]

Blown away. Amazed how many of the first comments reference the track I went to quite directly, "Both Sides". But, had to stop. I get overwhelmed.
posted by Goofyy at 2:47 PM on July 26

i really hate to type this - but she's lost her voice and a good deal of her timing

this saddens me greatly - i hope she had fun doing this - i hope she will be at peace with what has happened

and thank you, joni
posted by pyramid termite at 4:03 PM on July 26 [2 favorites]

Most of you probably know this, but an absolutely lovely detail of Circle Game is:

"Mitchell originally wrote the song to console her friend Neil Young after she heard his lost-youth lament “Sugar Mountain.” “I thought, 'God, you know, if we get to 21 and there's nothing after that, that's a pretty bleak future,' so I wrote a song for him, and for myself, just to give me some hope,” she said, ..."

(quoted from Rollng Stone Magazine)
posted by jcworth at 4:17 PM on July 26 [3 favorites]

i hope she had fun doing this

this feels like a low blow, given everyone else's response to this here. "this sucks glad u had fun tho" is rude.

Here's an interview from this weekend where she discusses the journey, if you're interested in hearing from her directly.
posted by wemayfreeze at 5:21 PM on July 26 [7 favorites]

i really hate to type this - but she's lost her voice and a good deal of her timing

So many of us have been moved to tears by the beauty of her voice in these renditions. Beauty is not perfection. I think you missed the point.
posted by bearette at 5:33 PM on July 26 [17 favorites]

Joni’s voice, more than her guitar or piano, is her instrument. She smoked for a lot of years, and her voice now is far removed from the one she had as a young person. But I wouldn’t say she’s lost her voice, any more than I would say that about Johnny Cash or Bob Dylan. She’s 78 years old, and she’s not trying to be her 21-year old self. She never was.
posted by box at 5:43 PM on July 26 [11 favorites]

Have you even heard John Mellencamp lately? He says his voice is finally what he wants it to sound like.
posted by hippybear at 5:47 PM on July 26

Also, she had an aneurism in 2015 and lost her ability to speak and walk. Doctors say her recovery is incredible- I think this adds another wonderful layer to the performance.

I also thought that her voice in "Both Sounds Now" was genuinely so beautiful and evocative, in a richer way than the original.
posted by bearette at 6:03 PM on July 26 [10 favorites]

Singing a song about having deep life insights that you wrote at 21, when you're 78... it's really hard not to have layers and evocations well beyond the original. I almost wish Rick Ruben would take her into the studio to do just a single, of her now singing Both Sides now.
posted by hippybear at 6:24 PM on July 26 [2 favorites]

Nice article focusing on putting the event together, Wynona Judd's reactions and some of the others in the crew
posted by wemayfreeze at 7:04 PM on July 26 [5 favorites]

Sometime voices in the night will call me back again
Back along the pathway of a troubled mind
When forests rise to block the light that keeps a traveler sane
I'll challenge them with flashes from a brighter time

I think I understand
Fear is like a wilderland
Stepping stones or sinking sand
posted by Nerd of the North at 8:12 PM on July 26 [3 favorites]

>i really hate to type this - but she's lost her voice and a good deal of her timing

>So many of us have been moved to tears by the beauty of her voice in these renditions. Beauty is not perfection. I think you missed the point.

This is the difference between listening musically and listening emotionally. It's the difference between Lady in Satin being terrible, or a powerful work of art.
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:49 PM on July 26 [2 favorites]

I was nervous to listen to these, I'm an amateur singer and age gets your instrument in a way that's just not the same as the effects of say arthritis on piano. She has an old voice. But if you listen to what she's doing, she's not trying and failing to hit notes she used to be able to sing. She's singing in the range she has, harmonizing and dropping in and out to manage her stamina. Check out the end of Big Yellow Taxi for instance - she knows exactly what she's doing. She's using the instrument she has, and that's exactly how I want to sing when I'm her age.
posted by heyforfour at 6:17 AM on July 27 [9 favorites]

Gosh, the whirlwind of emotions for Judd, watching her elderly hero bypass pain and illness to embrace joy, just after her elderly mom, in a pit of despair, took her own life.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:22 AM on July 27 [4 favorites]

This was just incredible. I am so blown away by how far she has come and her amazing, incredible recovery. I remember in 2015 when she had the aneurysm thinking, well, the next thing I will hear will be her obituary; nobody comes back from that. But she has. She was so central to my teenage self and through all of my youth; I don't think I can even explain just how important her music was to me. The Hissing of Summer Lawns. . . Blue. . . I listened to them over and over, singing along, alone in my room.

I cried big fat ugly tears last night watching these. I still know all the words to every song. Thank you for this post.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:44 AM on July 27 [3 favorites]

Thank you so much for posting this. I saw the video of Both Sides Now on twitter and I cried the same way Wynona Judd cried. I was blown away by the strength of her voice. Joni was such a huge part of my life - and the Blue album is just amazing. And thank you for all of the comments on this thread. It's good to be in such good company.
posted by bluesky43 at 10:58 AM on July 27 [2 favorites]

Pretty sure you could make a sci fi short story (or maybe just a religion) out of an imaginary society that has Life Events where everyone of a certain age has to sing 'Both Sides Now' at certain stations in their lives in a highly-charged community ritual. I'm here for that, I guess.
posted by aesop at 1:35 PM on July 27 [2 favorites]

« Older Serotonin and depression link debunked?   |   Quidditch rebrands as quadball and further... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments