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Joni Mitchell returns to Newport Folk Festival

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

If good things come to those who wait, then the payoff on a more than 50-year wait between sets at the Newport Folk Festival was bound to be spectacular. The last time this artist took the Newport stage was 1969. Heck, her last full concert anywhere was in the year 2000. So yesterday, when folk star Brandi Carlile introduced folk legend Joni Mitchell, people went kind of nuts.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BRANDI CARLILE: Joni Mitchell.

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Mitchell, who is 78, suffered a brain aneurysm in 2015, and she needed a bit of help moving across the stage. But the singer, seated in a Louis XIV-style chair and surrounded by other musicians, had no problem performing newer tracks and old favorites.

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JONI MITCHELL: (Singing) Rows and floes of angel hair.

(CHEERING)

MITCHELL: (Singing) And ice cream castles in the air.

SUMMERS: Mitchell's vocals were not the only highlight for NPR music critic and Joni Mitchell superfan Ann Powers.

ANN POWERS, BYLINE: For real Joni fans, yes, it was so exciting to hear her sing, but as exciting was this moment when she got up and she played her electric guitar.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MITCHELL: (Playing electric guitar).

POWERS: When you have a physical medical event, it's always questionable how much of your physical abilities will return. So that moment during the song "Just Like This Train" from her album "Court And Spark" - wow. That was the high point for me.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting, inaudible).

KELLY: As the crowd pleaded there for more, news of the surprise show set social media on fire, which means, Juana, we're going to have a Joni Mitchell comeback album, right?

SUMMERS: Maybe, says Powers, but that's not the point.

POWERS: Just her presence as part of this moment when we're all appreciating her legacy and recognizing her greatness - it's a gift in and of itself.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JONI MITCHELL AND BRANDI CARLILE: (Singing) And the seasons, they go round and round. And the painted ponies go up and down. We're captive on the carousel of time. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.