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The 6 Best Moments From Joni Mitchell’s First Headlining Show in Two Decades Print-ready version

The legendary artist performed for nearly three hours on June 10 with a star-studded group including Brandi Carlile, Marcus Mumford, and more.

by Taylor Mims
June 10, 2023

Joni Mitchell performs in concert during Joni Jam honoring her at Gorge Amphitheatre on June 10, 2023 in George, Washington. Gary Miller/Getty Images

Joni's Entrance

With the stage set up like an intimate living room - several couches, love seats and studded chairs - Carlile had the pleasure of introducing one of her musical idols. Mitchell walked onto the stage to thunderous applause from the packed Gorge shortly after 9 p.m. on Saturday night. The iconic singer was decked out in big sunglasses, a kimono and a black cane topped with the bejeweled head of a wolf and grinning for only the third time she had graced the iconic stage. Before taking her seat at the front of the stage in a studded chair, she gave the audience a little shimmy.

Every musician on stage - seemingly in solidarity with Mitchell, who could not stand for the full show - also remained seated as they immediately ripped into "Big Yellow Taxi." The audience exploded into a joyous sing-a-long with Joni and the "jammers."

Joni's Banter

The evening was filled with Mitchell's hilarious cackle and playful banter, especially with the show organizer Carlile. Carlile prompted Mitchell to tell the audience about how she once lived in caves and Mitchell detailed how she once spent two months living in the Matala caves on the island of Crete.

"They were natural caves occupied by the Minoans," Mitchell explained. "Then the Romans came and they carved sleep crypts into it and little old shelves for statues. After their occupation, it was a leper colony. Lepers lived there. Then it was closed off for a long time and then the beatniks started to go there and then the hippies."

At the end of the retelling, Carlile grabbed for the nearly-empty bottle of white wine between her and Mitchell and took a swig. Away from the microphone, Mitchell joked with Carlile, who repeated Joni's words for the crowd. Quoting Mitchell, Carlile says, "You're gonna drink out of the bottle? That's butch."

Standing Ovation for "Case of You"

One of the most poignant moments of the evening was when Mitchell sang her iconic love song "A Case of You." Carlile called it one of her favorite songs of all time and Mitchell's 2023 rendition had audiences in tears as she sang the poetic lines that have stayed with generations of fans. Onstage behind Mitchell, Russell, Lennox and McLaughlin embraced each other and cried.

Mitchell sang the final lines of the track on her own, evoking every emotion as if it was as raw as the first time she played it live. She sang, "You're so bitter/ Bitter and so sweet/ Oh, I could drink a case of you, darling/ Still I'd be on my feet/ I would still be on my feet," and the entire crowd rose to their feet to applaud her.

Joni Is New to Cell Phones at Gigs

Apparently, Mitchell has not seen cell phone lights in lieu of lighters at a concert before. During the Joni Jam's version of Mitchell's "Shine," thousands of audience members turned on their cell phone flashlights and swayed along. When the song concluded, Mitchell leaned over to Carlile inquire about the lights and Carlile informed her they were cell phones. A stunned Mitchell, who has rarely performed live for two decades, was in awe of the simple gesture and called it "beautiful" multiple times.

The Dylan Story

Mitchell took fans down memory lane as she recalled a time she toured with Van Morrison and Bob Dylan. Morrison came to Mitchell concerned that Dylan hadn't spoken to him much on the tour and Mitchell assured him, "Well, Bob is rude and he likes to be an enigma."

Morrison asked if the three of them should do something together onstage and Mitchell suggested the two of them crash one of Dylan's sets. Morrison was hesitant about the plan but went along with Mitchell, who said she would take the fourth verse of one of Dylan's songs and Morrison could do what he liked. They crashed the set, Morrison sliding up to Dylan's microphone and Mitchell at the guitarist's mic.

"When the fourth verse came up, I couldn't remember the lyrics," Mitchell told the crowd to laughter. "I said to the guitar player, 'You got it,' and he sang the fourth verse. I tried frantically to remember what the fifth verse was. I couldn't remember that one either, so I made one up."

She continued, "Bob turned around and did a double take and gave me a look. He was grinning from ear to ear. After the set was over, Van said, 'You shouldn't have done that. That was disrespectful.' I said, 'Disrespectful? There's nothing he likes better than to see me fuck up.'"

The Encore

After playing for two-and-a-half hours, Mitchell and the rest of the Jam members returned for an encore. For the first time during the show, Mitchell played a guitar. After suffering a brain aneurysm in 2015, Mitchell had to relearn how to play the instrument and the audience sat quietly as she played the last numbers of the evening including "If," which she called her favorite song earlier in the evening. Following "If," Carlile attempted to call it an evening before Mitchell insisted on playing "one more." Minutes before midnight and nearly three hours into her set, the 79-year-old finished the historic night with Frank Sinatra's "Young at Heart." The last lines Mitchell sang were the apt, "And if you survive to 105/ Look at all you'll derive/ Out of being alive/ And here is the best part/ You have a head start/ If you are among the very/ Young at heart."

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Added to Library on June 12, 2023. (651)


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