Joni Mitchell at Newport

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From The Second Disc

Less than one year ago, on July 24, 2022, Joni Mitchell took the stage of the Newport Folk Festival in Newport, Rhode Island for her first full concert set in two decades. Word quickly spread, usually attached to adjectives such as "thrilling," "moving," and "extraordinary." Since then, the Mitchell renaissance has continued unabated. Earlier this year, she received the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, following in the footsteps of such greats as Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Carole King, and Burt Bacharach and Hal David. This June, she'll return to the concert stage at Washington's Gorge Amphitheater for a Joni Jam show that sold out within minutes. Now, Rhino has announced the July 28 release of Mitchell's At Newport, preserving her stunning stage return on CD, double vinyl, and digital formats.

Produced by the artist and her friend and collaborator Brandi Carlile, At Newport features Joni's set in which she was joined by nine-time Grammy winner Carlile as well as her band members Phil Hanseroth, country legend Wynonna Judd, folk-rocker Marcus Mumford, folk/R&B singer-songwriter-guitarist Celisse, Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius, Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, and others. The warm, familial vibes onstage extended to the enrapt audience as can be heard on the performance of "Both Sides Now" which is now streaming to preview the full album. That now-standard from Mitchell's early days is just one of the many favorites performed by the singer and her spirited ensemble including "Big Yellow Taxi," "A Case of You," "Carey," "Amelia," "The Circle Game," and "Just Like This Train," the latter of which powerfully showcased the artist's undiminished guitar playing. Celisse chimed in with a rendition of Mitchell's pop hit "Help Me" from Court and Spark, while Joni brought the evening full circle with the title track of her last studio album (to date), 2007's Shine.

Liner notes for At Newport have been provided by Mitchell's longtime friend Cameron Crowe, also responsible for the notes in the ongoing Joni Mitchell Archives series. Last November, Mitchell attended her first Broadway show when she was guest of honor at the opening night of Crowe's musical Almost Famous (which featured "Both Sides Now" woven into Crowe and composer-lyricist Tom Kitt's largely original score).

The respected filmmaker, journalist, and rock historian describes the moment she stepped onto the Newport stage: "Mitchell emerged from the side of the stage, swaying smoothly, in fine summer-style with beret and sunglasses. Her good-natured mood instantly set the tone. This performance would be an intimate gathering of friends, not unlike the Joni Jams she'd been hosting in her own living room over the last few years of recovery. Smiling broadly, Mitchell made her surprise appearance, taking her on-stage seat alongside Carlile. Within minutes, the news had rocketed around the globe. Mitchell was back, sparkling with enthusiasm, delivering a tender and passionate set of 13 songs, ending with a joyful sing-along of 'The Circle Game.'" (Singalong covers of "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" and "Love Potion No. 9" have been excised from the new release.)

Joni Mitchell's At Newport will be released physically in both CD and 2LP formats; the latter will be available in standard black vinyl everywhere and on clear vinyl at independent record stores and Barnes and Noble locations. In addition to a stereo digital release, a Dolby Atmos mix of the concert will also be issued. You'll find the track listing and pre-order links below for Rhino's document of the triumphant return of the indomitable Joni Mitchell.
 
Hoping we get a recording of the concert from the Gorge, too. Lindsay Zoladz says it was amazing:
https://www.nytimes.com/2023/06/11/arts/music/joni-mitchell-gorge-concert.html
Above all, though, it was a resurrection. After the first few songs — including rousing, singalong renditions of “Big Yellow Taxi” and “Raised on Robbery” — a recognition seemed to ripple through the crowd: Mitchell’s voice had grown even stronger, richer and nimbler in the year since those Newport videos went viral. In that previous performance, Carlile had often guided Mitchell or taken on lead vocal duties herself. But at the Gorge, Mitchell was once again in control. There was a renewed ease in her movement across melodies, and a pearly purity in her tone. It was breathtaking. To hear Mitchell hit certain notes again in that inimitable voice was like glimpsing, in the wild, a magnificent bird long feared to have gone extinct.
("Gift" version for non-subscribers who've reached their monthly limit of free articles.)
 
I want to plug Call & Response, the Substack of a really good music writer named Michelle Mercer--among other things, she wrote a well-regarded bio of Wayne Shorter and a great book about Blue--who, earlier this summer, published what I thought was a thoughtful piece that very carefully worked out her misgivings about certain aspects of Joni's comeback. I really identified with it, as I've had similar qualms myself, but I didn't have the guts to lay them out as honestly and eloquently as Mercer. Turns out that in the wake of that piece--all too predictably--Mercer has been the target of some shockingly hateful trolling. It's hard enough to make a living as a journalist these days without being subjected to such harassment, let alone being made to fear for your life and safety. (And by people who purport to be fans of Joni, yet! Sheesh.)
https://michellemercer.substack.com/p/take-me-as-i-am-asking-all-the-wrong
 
This is great, thanks for sharing @humprof - I agree, this articulates a lot of what I’ve been feeling around the latest release/developments too. No matter what, people should feel safe to publish these kinds of thoughts/pieces whether we agree or not. The fact that they’re not these days is really agitating and concerning. Any kind of blind allegiance to a musician or otherwise is not the right direction to be heading.

I listened to the new recording last week and felt all of this. Weirdly I listened again in the car with my family yesterday while on a long drive and found it more emotional, but maybe because they’ve never been as close to her music and I appreciated them seeing Joni and her musical legacy in this light - especially as big fans of Brandi, Lucius, and Dawes. My ambivalence remains, but I know it’s more about me than anything else.
 
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