If ever a record release could be a total let down compared to the event it had recorded, it was this one.
Joni Mitchell had pretty much been out of the public eye since an aneurysm almost took her life in 2015. In the summer of 2022, 53 years old after her last performance there, she appeared at the Newport Folk Festival.
Even with the recovery that Joni has made, this was an ambitious live gig. It is all inspired by the Joni-Jam that happens in her home in LA every Sunday and spearheaded by the phenomenal networker Brandi Carlile who gathered an array of songwriting and instrumental geniuses to join the Jam.
The Jam is Joni sitting in the midst of all the other singers and players who give Joni’s fragility layered confidence.
It is totally infectious from the word go. Brandi explains to a Newport audience what a Joni-Jam is but says that it would be a little less without Joni… and then welcomes the legendary woman her onstage. It is a goosebump moment even though you already know it happens.
From there on through a set of Joni’s finest songs we are gifted the most joyous of celebrations. You can almost feel the atmosphere coming off the groove in the vinyl. The sense of joy is palpable. We are treated to Help Me, Carey, A Case Of You, Both Sides Now. Amelia is performed after Mitchell claims Hejira her favourite record.
What I was also pleased about was the inclusion of post 70s Joni. Mitchell herself takes us on an electric guitar instrumental of Just Like This Train but Come In From The Cold is also special.
Particularly special for me is Shine. The title track from Joni’s last studio record it is like a prayer. I could use it in Church. And might. Everything gets touched upon including the churches:
Shine on the Catholic Church
And the prisons that it owns
Shine on all the Churches
They all love less and less
Shine on a hopeful girl
In a dreamy dress
I found the communal, dare I say congregational, sense of this version definitive. It’s strong, spiritual, prophetic, loving.
Circle Game is equally communal but more fair ground as of course the song about carousels should. It raises the joy even more. It is like this entire record, bursting with musical community breaking down the barriers between the artists and the audience with the Queen Bee that we feared we lost right there in the middle of it all.
Put the needle down again… Far from a let down. Wonderful.