GEORGE — There was an almost tense energy among the 26,000 or so fans who packed the Gorge Amphitheater on Saturday. For years, many Joni Mitchell fans thought they would never see one of the greatest living songwriters perform again. But 20 years after Mitchell retired from touring and eight years after a life-threatening brain aneurysm, fans who made the pilgrimage to Washington’s landmark venues were minutes away from witnessing music history. rice field.
While Mitchell and her 20-some all-star musician friends who backed her up sang this lilting tune, the opening note of one of Mitchell’s most popular hits, “Big Yellow Taxi,” The collective anxiety exploded with euphoria. A big old family singing together. The crowd could barely contain their euphoria, briefly falling silent when Mitchell’s anchor vocal went unaccompanied, but then bursting out again the moment the rest of the choir joined her.
As the opening song ended, the awe-inspired fans rose to their feet and continued to applaud, but the joyous laughter of the 79-year-old seemed to make their cheers even louder.
After a surprise set with Brandi Carlisle and friends performing as Joni Mitchell & The Joni Jam at last year’s Newport Folk Festival, Mitchell will headline ticketed for the first time in years on Saturday.・The concert was held in earnest, and fans came from as far away as Australia, England, San Francisco, and London. for a monumental occasion in Saskatoon (Mitchell’s hometown in Saskatchewan, Canada).
The Newport set and last night’s show, the centerpiece of Carlisle’s weekend Echoes Through the Canyon, is an extension of the private jam sessions Mitchell has held at his home for the past four years while recovering from an aneurysm in 2015. Yes, I couldn’t walk, let alone speak. He sings and plays the guitar. A monthly jam, which Carlisle eventually helped negotiate, paved the way for Mitchell to relearn singing and playing the guitar, and to return to his musical career in public.
Rather than a traditional concert on Saturday night, it was an opportunity to collectively celebrate a broad range of intergenerational artist norms and immerse yourself in Mitchell’s brilliance for two hours and 40 minutes. Carlyle best describes this, or at least more poetically, in his onstage introduction, comparing the intimate Joni Jam to peering into a small hut inside a snow globe.
The stage was set up like a living room, with plenty of sofas, lamps and end tables, and even framed pictures of pets. Dressed in sunglasses and pink floral shirts, Mitchell and Carlyle sit in the center front of plush easy chairs, joking like old friends, sipping Pinot Grigio when not singing into matching golden microphones. were discussing “When you come to Washington, you drink from a Yeti,” Carlyle exclaimed, pouring water into his friend’s tumbler. (Mitchell later teased Carlisle drinking straight from the bottle.)
Joni Jam had an air of campfire revelry with music geek dream-teller Sesh. In between songs, Carlisle played interviewer and fangirl-in-chief, letting Mitchell tell old rock and roll stories. There was also the spaced exploration of Bob Seger and lyrics, slapping the knees for recordings of wolf howls. and some of Mitchell’s most revered songs about the inspiration behind it.
As the wine poured, Mitchell thumped his cane on the giant stage to “Raized on Robbery.” The song, she later explained, was about a Saskatoon hotel prostitute. Mitchell’s sassy vocals matched the hard-kicking tempo of that night’s roaring rocker, before cooling it down with “Come In From The Cold” and the faint soft-rocker “Amelia.” Mitchell’s solitary voice sounds stronger in the latter, just as the sunlight lingers in the canyon behind her, as if her first few gang vocal songs cleared the runway for the guest of honor to take off. It sounded like it disappeared into an amber glow.
Mitchell’s all-star supporting cast formed a semicircle around Mitchell and Carlisle, including the Hanseloth twins, Marcus Mumford on percussion, and embarrassingly Annie Lennox and Sarah McLachlan as backing singers, each member got the next opportunity. Makes the women of the hour shine and attracts admiration.
When Mitchell was not fronting a song, Joni Jammers took turns leading the song, alternating between singing with and for a revered musical icon. . As Carlisle pointed out in the acoustic opening set, this was a terrifying proposition. Frequent Carlisle collaborator Celis Henderson, a singer and guitar ace whom Mitchell likened to a female Jimi Hendrix (albeit a better singer), was prominently featured throughout the night. Mitchell’s emotional guitar solo accentuated the bluesy “Summertime,” transporting the audience into a smoky speakeasy. The dark number was the first song Mitchell sang during a private jam session, and the Gorge performance came full circle.
Sarah McLachlan’s faithful and memorable turn in “Blue” was another outstanding guest-led production. Carlyle, a late-blooming Mitchell fan who grew up watching McLachlan and Lilith Fair in the Gorge, is clearly in heaven, leaning back in her plush chair, closing her eyes, mouthing every word, and drinking wine. It broke just by pulling it out of the bottle.
Mitchell’s voice has naturally changed since releasing her most famous work in the ’70s, but throughout the set of All Hands Marathon, she sang with soul, courage and stamina. She’s also found herself in the spotlight instrumentally, with her playing lead guitar on “Just Like This Train” (as she did at Newport) and the encore “If.”
It wasn’t until she wondered what the crowd lighting was during the gospel-tinged “Shine” that her last tour was 20 years ago. Carlisle raised her voice after spending most of the set playing. The voice of her supporters along with Mitchell. “It was a spectacular sight with a little light on my phone,” she said happily.
I hope to see her again soon.
Joni Mitchell & The Joni Jam setlist:
1. “Big yellow cab”
2. “Night Ride Home”
3. “I grew up robbing.”
4. “Come home because it’s cold”
7. “Sex Kill”
8. “Summertime” (George Gershwin cover)
9. “Ladies of the Canyon” (Annie Lennox)
10. “Help Me” (Cerris Henderson)
11. “Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way” (Rick Whitfield Original)
12. “Love Potion No.9” (The Clovers cover)
13. “In Your Case”
14. “A Strange Boy” (Wendy Melvoin, Lisa Coleman)
15. “Cactus Tree” (Lucius)
16. “California” (Marcus Mumford)
17. “Blue” (Sarah McLachlan)
18. “Why Do Fools Fall In Love” (Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers cover)
20. “Both sides are now”
21. “Circle Game”
22. “Like this train”
23. “What if”
24. “Young at Heart” (Frank Sinatra cover)