Above: Joni Mitchell and Brandi Carlile, with Wynona Judd in the background, during Sunday’s “Joni Jam” on the Fort stage. Photo by Julia Ordog
Very occasionally, the hype falls short. Sunday evening at the Fort stage at the Newport Folk Festival was one of those times. Many of us in the audience had heard Brandi Carlile – the final performer of the night (and the festival) – might do something with Joni Mitchell. The buzz was Joni could be there but no way would she perform. It would be an homage. Joni hadn’t performed since 2013 and had largely receded from public view after an aneurysm in 2015.
But there she was, on stage, holding court almost, surrounded by some of the musicians who’d played at the festival – the Lucius duo and Taylor Goldsmith among them – as well as Wynona Judd, and Alison Russell. The stage was made to replicate the gatherings at Joni’s house in Los Angeles, which had become known as “Joni Jams.” Still it was unclear whether or not she would sing.
Then, as Carlile started singing “A Case of You,” we in the audience could hear Joni’s now-deeper but still true voice join Carlile’s. And Carlile seemed very attuned to when to pull back. So, in the final lines of the song, she stopped singing and let Mitchell carry it home, singing:
I could drink a case of you, oh darlin’
And I would still be on my feet
I would still be on my feet.
This is the strong magic of live performance.
And the magic wasn’t over. Mitchell went on to perform a rapturous rendition of Gershwin’s “Summertime,” as well as some of her own hits, including “Big Yellow Taxi,” “Carey,” and “Both Sides Now,” which pretty much brought everyone to their knees.
It was a rousing end to the three-day festival. As good as it was, there were a bunch of other great performances earlier in the day, including the Brothers Hermanos, guitar-playing … brothers who were so gracious. The war in Ukraine was never far from people’s minds during the Kiev-based quartet DakhaBrakha’s set. Also on the Harbor stage were bluesman Buffalo Nichols and the playful Taylor Goldsmith. Sylvan Esso lived up to the anticipation, performing their new album on the Fort stage. The Roots brought “soul power to the people!” Then were were the Linda Lindas – a bunch of teenager punk rockers with a splash of Hello Kitty. Japanese Breakfast brought breakfast (a team of people fanned out at the start of their set with boxes of pastry) and a whole lot of exuberance. Other notables were John Craige and Joy Oladokun.
A shoutout to Julia Ordog, EGHS Class of 2012, who spent three days running from stage to stage to stage (in some serious hot weather) so EG News could have these great pictures. You can find her other work HERE. Thanks, Julia!
Editor’s note: In a previous version we listed Judy Collins as being in attendance. We cannot verify that so her name has been deleted. Apologies for the confusion.