After over two decades away from the stage, Joni Mitchell made her historic return on Saturday with her first announced concert since 2000. The all-star, three-hour show at The Gorge Amphitheatre came as part of Brandi Carlile‘s three-night Echoes Through The Canyon concert series and included appearances by Marcus Mumford, Celisse, Lucius, Sarah McLachlanBlake MillsAnnie Lennox, and many more.

Since suffering a brain aneurysm and nearly dying in 2015, Mitchell spent the past eight years largely away from the public eye. Her long road to recovery forced the now-79-year-old singer-songwriter to relearn how to walk, talk, sing, and play instruments. Once her condition allowed, a steady stream of fans, contemporaries, and admirers came rolling in to visit the recovering songstress. Naturally, these visitations turned into evenings of song and performances, eventually dubbed the “Joni Jams”.

Then last year at Newport Folk Festival, Mitchell shocked audiences and the music world by performing a surprise set. Much like Saturday’s affair, the concert took on a similar format to the “Joni Jams” that aided in Mitchell’s recovery. With a similar cast of performers with her at The Gorge, Mitchell and company staged a 24-song headlining appearance that completed the venerated songwriter’s made-for-TV rise, fall, and redemption character arc.

Related: Joni Mitchell ‘At Newport’ Live Album To Document Historic Return To The Stage [Video]

The show fittingly began with perhaps Mitchell’s most widely-known song, “Big Yellow Taxi”. The packed crowd of over 25,000 who traveled from around the globe to witness the historic moment chimed in as they joined Mitchell in the joyous opening number.

All night, Mitchell sat perched on her throne in the midst of a stage setup that echoed that of her living room. Couches, chairs, and even a bottle of pinot grigio lined the stage as Mitchell and her co-host/interviewer Carlile presided over a roundtable of special guests who periodically chimed in from their seats surrounding the Queen Joni. Blues guitarist Celisse was the first to pay her respects to Mitchell with “Raised on Robbery”.

All of Mitchell’s special guests remained onstage throughout the performance, likely not wanting to miss a moment of the show. Throughout the night, Marcus Mumford, Blake Mills, pianist Ben Lusher, Annie Lennox, Rick WhitfieldWendy & Lisa, Lucius, and Sarah McLachlan each took up the mic at various moments to help mine Mitchell’s vast catalog. The extended ensemble jumped through her five-decade discography, from 1968’s “Both Sides Now” to 2007’s “Shine”. Between songs, Carlile played the part of the ebullient fan as she attempted to maintain her composure while taking part in the historic moment.

Similarly, the equally thrilled Mitchell chimed in at various times with quips that made the evening feel as casual as her stage setup suggested. Discussing her return to Newport Folk Festival last year for the first time since she was 25, she remarked “Viva la old age,” drawing laughter and applause from the crowd.

In the end, it was Mitchell who took back the spotlight to close out the musical feat of strength. After sharing the mic with Carlile for “Shine”, Mitchell picked another time-honored classic from her Mount Rushmore of compositions, “Both Sides Now”. While the well-known number seemed like a logical end to the show, Mitchell instead finished the main set with “The Circle Game”.

Written in response to Neil Young‘s “Sugar Mountain”, the song reflects on age and the passing of time from the perspective of a boy approaching the end of his teen years. As Mitchell sang the lyrics she wrote nearly 60 years ago about getting old, the full circle moment underscored better than any of the sit-ins or the monstrous crowd of fans the everlasting and timeless nature of the songs of Joni Mitchell.

So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty / Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true / There’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty / Before the last revolving year is through.

Mitchell still wasn’t finished, however, returning for an encore and proving what a rockstar she still is by taking lead guitar on an instrumental take on “Just Like This Train”. After a moving performance of “If”, Mitchell ended the long night with a nod to another music legend as she and Allison Russell closed the show with Frank Sinatra‘s “Young At Heart” in a clever wink to the fact that Joni isn’t done just yet.

Check out videos and a setlist from Joni Mitchell at The Gorge. A full cache of videos is available on YouTube from Stefanie D.

Joni Mitchell, Joni Jams – “Big Yellow Taxi” – 6/10/23

[Video: Stefanie D]

Joni Mitchell, Blake Mills, Joni Jam – “Amelia” – 6/10/23

[Video: Jon Fadem]

Joni Mitchell, Ben Lusher – “Summertime” (George Gershwin) – 6/10/23

[Video: Stefanie D]

Joni Mitchell, Brandi Carlile, Marcus Mumford, Joni Jam – “A Case Of You” – 6/10/23

[Video: Stefanie D]

Marcus Mumford, Joni Jam – “California” – 6/10/23

[Video: Stefanie D]

Sara McLachlan – “Blue” – 6/10/23

[Video: Stefanie D]

Joni Mitchell, Joni Jam – “Why Do Fools Fall In Love” (Frank Lyman) – 6/10/23

[Video: Stefanie D]

Joni Mitchell, Joni Jam – “Both Sides Now” – 6/10/23

[Video: Stefanie D]

View Videos

Setlist: Joni Mitchell | The Gorge Amphitheatre | George, WA | 6/10/23

Big Yellow Taxi
Night Ride Home
Raised on Robbery (with Celisse Henderson)
Come in From the Cold (with Marcus Mumford)
Amelia (with Blake Mills)
Sex Kills (with Celisse Henderson)
Summertime (George Gershwin cover) (with Ben Lusher)
Ladies of the Canyon (with Annie Lennox)
Help Me (with Celisse Henderson)
Where There’s A Will There’s A Way (Rick Whitfield cover) (with Rick Whitfield)
Love Potion No. 9 (The Clovers cover)
A Case of You (with Marcus Mumford and Brandi Carlile)
A Strange Boy (with Wendy & Lisa)
Cactus Tree (with Lucius)
California (with Marcus Mumford)
Blue (with Sarah McLachlan)
Why Do Fools Fall in Love (Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers cover)
Shine (with Brandi Carlile)
Both Sides Now
The Circle Game

Just Like This Train (instrumental version: Joni plays lead guitar)
Young At Heart (Frank Sinatra cover) (with Allison Russell)

View Setlist