The anticipation was palpable among the 26,000 fans gathered at the Gorge Amphitheatre as they awaited Joni Mitchell’s highly anticipated concert. Mitchell, considered one of the greatest living songwriters, had retired from touring two decades ago and had overcome a life-threatening brain aneurysm eight years prior. The moment had finally arrived, and fans from around the world had traveled far and wide to witness this historic event.
The crowd’s nervous energy transformed into euphoria as the opening notes of “Big Yellow Taxi” filled the air. Mitchell, accompanied by a talented ensemble of musician friends serving as her backing band, turned the beloved tune into a joyous singalong. The audience couldn’t contain their excitement, hushing momentarily to hear Mitchell’s iconic vocals before erupting into cheers as the choir joined in.
After the exhilarating opening, the crowd rose to their feet, showering the 79-year-old legend with an extended ovation. Mitchell’s laughter filled the air, further fueling the enthusiasm of the fans.
This concert was a significant milestone for Mitchell, marking her first proper ticketed headlining performance in years. Fans had journeyed from all corners of the globe to be part of this momentous occasion. The event was an extension of the private jam sessions Mitchell had been hosting at her home over the past four years as she recovered from her aneurysm. These sessions, eventually organized with the help of Brandi Carlile, played a crucial role in Mitchell’s return to public music performance as she rediscovered her singing and guitar-playing abilities.
The evening at the Gorge Amphitheatre was not a traditional concert but rather a communal celebration of Mitchell’s extensive musical catalog. Fans were given the rare opportunity to bask in the presence of a generational artist, immersing themselves in Mitchell’s timeless music for two hours and forty minutes. The stage was set up like a cozy living room, complete with couches, lamps, and framed pet photos. Mitchell and Carlile sat in plush armchairs, donning sunglasses and exchanging banter like old friends. The intimate setting added to the magic of the evening.
The Joni Jam had the atmosphere of a campfire gathering combined with a music aficionado’s dream storyteller session. Between songs, Carlile took on the role of interviewer and enthusiastic fan, prompting Mitchell to share anecdotes about her experiences in the music industry and the inspirations behind her most revered songs.
With glasses of wine in hand, Mitchell and her band launched into a spirited rendition of “Raised on Robbery,” showcasing her sassy vocals. The night continued with a mix of rockers and softer tunes, with Mitchell’s voice growing stronger and more captivating as the concert progressed.
Mitchell’s star-studded supporting cast, including the Hanseroth twins, Marcus Mumford, Annie Lennox, and Sarah McLachlan, encircled her and Carlile, taking turns leading songs and showering Mitchell with praise. Each member had their moment to shine, contributing to the unforgettable atmosphere.
Noteworthy guest performances included Celisse Henderson’s emotive guitar solo during “Summertime,” which transported the audience to a smoky speak-easy, and Sarah McLachlan’s poignant rendition of “Blue,” capturing the essence of Mitchell’s iconic song.
Throughout the marathon set, Mitchell’s voice showcased soul, passion, and stamina. Despite the natural changes that come with time, her talent and artistry remained undeniable. Mitchell even took center stage as a lead guitarist during instrumental moments, further demonstrating her musical prowess.
The only reminder of the two-decade hiatus from touring came when Mitchell, with amusement, questioned the sea of cellphone lights from the crowd during a gospel-infused performance of “Shine.” It was a heartwarming moment of connection between the artist and her devoted fans.
As the final notes of the encore faded away, the audience was left in awe of the musical journey they had experienced. Joni Mitchell’s return to the stage had exceeded all expectations, delivering a night filled with love, nostalgia, and the celebration of an iconic artist. The concert at the Gorge Amphitheatre will be remembered as a testament to Mitchell’s enduring legacy and her ability to captivate audiences across generations.