Joni Mitchell surprises fans with first concert in 20 years

Joni Mitchell surprises fans with first concert in 20 years
Canadian folk singer Joni Mitchell first performed at the Newport Folk Festival in 1969. Her performance on Sunday marked the first time she as performed a full set since 2002. Graphic by Abby Stetina for The Brussels Times. Photo credits: John Judge and Nina Westervelt for The New York Times.

Legendary Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell gave a surprise concert to fans at the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island on Sunday.

The folk artist played and sang with American country star Brandi Carlile for a total of 13 songs, including "A Case of You" and "Both Sides Now," plus an electric guitar solo of "Just Like This Train."

Mitchell, 78, has been absent from the stage for over 20 years, only giving special appearances during tributes to her or other artists. This marks the first time she has performed a full concert since 2002.

“I’ve never been nervous about being in front of an audience,” Mitchell told American broadcaster CBS News following her performance. “But I wanted it to be good. And I wasn’t sure it could be. But I didn’t sound too bad tonight!”

A debilitating brain aneurysm suffered in 2015 left Mitchell temporarily unable to speak or walk. The 10-time Grammy winner surprised fans at the folk festival with her strength and endurance.

“I’m looking at videos that are on the net to see where I put my fingers,” Mitchell said. “It’s amazing what an aneurysm knocks out – how to get out of a chair! You don’t know how to get out of a bed. You have to learn all these things by rote again.”

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Mitchell previously performed at the Newport Folk Festival when she was 25 years old, in 1969. Other musicians at that year's festival included the likes of Johnny Cash with June Carter and Kris Kristofferson, Van Morrison and Big Mama Thornton.

Mitchell was a major voice of the 1960s folk-rocker generation, her biggest hit being "Big Yellow Taxi"— which she played on Sunday. The song was released in April 1970, the same month that marks Earth Day in the United States. The environmental anthem has been recorded by at least 456 artists since its initial release.

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