Joni Mitchell has delivered her first public performance in nine years, taking to the stage at MusiCares’ 2022 Person of the Year benefit gala.
Mitchell was bestowed this year’s titular honour on Friday night (April 1), following in the footsteps of previous recipients Aerosmith (who were celebrated with the title in 2020) and Dolly Parton (in 2019).
Mitchell was not announced to be performing at the event, but joined the likes of Beck, Brandi Carlile, Cyndi Lauper, Stephen Stills, Jon Batiste and more to sing her 1970 classics “Big Yellow Taxi” and “The Circle Game”.
It marked her first time singing in public since June 2013, when she performed two short, impromptu sets at events being held in her honour, where she was initially booked to recite poetry. Prior to those, her last performance took place in 2002, with Mitchell having retired from touring altogether in 2000.
Watch Mitchell singing “Big Yellow Taxi” at the MusiCares gala below:
At other points during the event, which took place at the Marquee Ballroom in Las Vegas, Mitchell was honoured with a sprawling roster of tributes.
Among them were a cover of “The Jungle Line” (from Mitchell’s 1975 album The Hissing Of Summer Lawns) performed by Beck, St. Vincent’s rendition of “Court And Spark” (from the 1974 album of the same name) and a take on “River” (from 1971’s Blue) by John Legend.
Other covers performed included Mickey Guyton’s rendition of “For Free”, Herbie Hancock and Terrace Martin’s take on “Hejira”, a performance of “Help Me” by Dave Grohl’s 15-year-old daughter Violet, Billy Porter’s spin on “Both Sides Now”, and “Woodstock” by Carlile and Stills. Carlile also served as one of the night’s artistic directors, alongside Batiste.
“When I heard that Joni was named Person of the Year, I knew I wanted to be involved in a meaningful way,” Batiste said in his opening speech. “Brandi and I worked with the producers to paint a beautiful picture of poetry and music through Joni’s eyes.”
Mitchell has largely kept out of the public eye since 2015, when she suffered a brain aneurysm that left her temporarily unable to walk or talk. She’s been making more appearances lately, though: the iconic singer-songwriter gave a speech at last year’s Kennedy Center Honors, where she received a lifetime achievement award, and presented Carlile’s performance at the 2022 Grammys Sunday night (April 3).
Mitchell herself won the Grammy for Best Historical Album, taking out the award for her five-disc boxset Joni Mitchell Archives – Vol. 1: The Early Years (1963–1967). The effort compiles rarities from the years preceding the release of Mitchell’s debut album, 1968’s Song To A Seagull, including various live bootlegs, radio sessions, jams and demo tapes.
In January, Mitchell declared her support for Neil Young’s battle against Spotify, removing her discography from the streaming platform in protest of it platforming misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine.