IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Joni Mitchell surprises fans with rare performance at Newport Folk Festival

The legendary 78-year-old took the stage during an already star-studded set billed as Brandi Carlile and Friends. She performed her first full set since the early 2000s.
Image: Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell performs with Brandi Carlile and Friends during the 2022 Newport Folk Festival at Fort Adams State Park on Sunday in Newport, R.I.Douglas Mason / Getty Images

Joni Mitchell surprised Sunday's Newport Folk Festival audience by performing an entire set, her first since the early 2000s.

The legendary 78-year-old took the stage during an already star-studded set billed as Brandi Carlile and Friends, which included Wynonna Judd, Holly Laessig of Lucius, Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons and Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, among others.

Carlile, 41, has been a champion of Mitchell's work, honoring her with many other artists at awards ceremonies, including the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony in 2021 and this year's MusiCares Person of the Year ceremony.

Following the MusiCares event — which also included performances by Beck, St. Vincent, Mickey Guyton, John Legend, Cyndi Lauper and Sara Bareilles — Mitchell gushed: "That was such an exciting musical evening for me, to hear my music performed so well by everybody that was on stage."

"I could retire now and just let other people do it," she said. Mitchell has been assumed to be retired since she experienced a brain aneurysm in 2015, so the comment sparked some speculation that she may just be planning to perform again.

And perform she did.

Mitchell's 13-song set included "Big Yellow Taxi," "Summertime" and "Both Sides Now."

She closed the show with "The Circle Game."

Mitchell last performed at the Newport Folk Festival in 1969. She last performed a full set in 2000, as she toured the U.S. during her Both Sides Now Tour of America, according to her website. She also headlined a benefit concert for The Walden Woods Project at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles in 2002.

At the MusiCares event in her honor, Mitchell, with Carlile and others, performed "The Circle Game" and "Big Yellow Taxi."