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PHOTOS: Joni Mitchell At The Gorge

More than 20,000 fans watch Joni Mitchell perform during "Joni Jam" — her first official concert since her aneurysm — at the Gorge Amphitheatre in Quincy, Wash., on Saturday, June 10, 2023.
Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
More than 20,000 fans watch Joni Mitchell perform during "Joni Jam" — her first official concert since her aneurysm — at the Gorge Amphitheatre in Quincy, Wash., on Saturday, June 10, 2023.

Twenty-seven thousand people responded to the invitation of their lives Saturday night at the Gorge Amphitheatre in eastern Washington State, when Joni Mitchell played her first announced concert in 20 years in the company of a trusted — and dazzling — company of friends.

The Joni Jam, as the evening was billed, was organized by Mitchell's spiritual daughter and main 21st-century champion Brandi Carlile, who herself had headlined the dramatically scenic venue the night before. Since 2019, Carlile has been part of the semi-regular singalongs at Mitchell's California home that have been key to the superstar's recovery from a 2015 aneurysm; there, fellow famous confidantes like Elton John and Herbie Hancock have helped Mitchell nurture and challenge herself as she learned to walk, sing, and play guitar again. At some point, the idea began forming to take this intimate healing circle public.

A brief set at last year's Newport Folk Festival set the stage for this full set, which lasted for nearly three hours and had a global and intergenerational audience of Joni fans shedding buckets of tears. The remarkable career-spanning set list included Mitchell chestnuts like "Big Yellow Taxi" and, or course, "Both Sides Now," next to critics' favorites like "Amelia" and excellent deep cuts from "A Strange Boy" to "Come In From The Cold"; Mitchell took the lead on many, while the artists gathered around her supported her with star turns of their own.

Those in attendance would have been thrilled at hearing Annie Lennox sing "Ladies of the Canyon" or Sarah McLachlan reprise her version of "Blue" under any circumstances. But nothing could top the mere presence of a happy and highly capable Mitchell. As the night wore on, she further blessed the proceedings with bawdy and playful storytelling, musical exchanges with Carlile that had them finishing each other's sentences, and a little bit of virtuosity on her trusty Fender guitar. Every move she made — even the percussive tap of her bespangled cane — drew from all the enthusiasm the evening's expanded circle could generate and multiplied it a hundredfold.

This photo gallery captures the delight felt by all in an evening when the lines between performers and fans, and a legend and her many inheritors, fell away, and a recovery that once seemed like it would require a miracle manifested, the result of that most human shared asset: love.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sarah Lyons from Los Angeles shows off her "Joni" hat.
/ Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
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Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
Sarah Lyons from Los Angeles shows off her "Joni" hat.
A gorgeous view for Brandi Carlile's performance at the Gorge Amphitheatre, ahead of Joni Mitchell and friends.
/ Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
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Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
A gorgeous view for Brandi Carlile's performance at the Gorge Amphitheatre, ahead of Joni Mitchell and friends.
Fans dance as Brandi Carlile performs Saturday night's opening set.
/ Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
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Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
Fans dance as Brandi Carlile performs Saturday night's opening set.
Brandi Carlile performs at the Gorge Amphitheatre on Saturday night.
/ Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
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Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
Brandi Carlile performs at the Gorge Amphitheatre on Saturday night.
Fans during Brandi Carlile's set during "Joni Jam" at the Gorge Amphitheatre.
/ Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
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Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
Fans during Brandi Carlile's set during "Joni Jam" at the Gorge Amphitheatre.
Whitney Garcia-Jacobson dances during Brandi Carlile's set during "Joni Jam" at the Gorge Amphitheatre on Saturday. "I mean, Brandi Carlile and Joni Mitchell? It's a once in a lifetime opportunity," Garcia-Jacobson said.
/ Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
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Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
Whitney Garcia-Jacobson dances during Brandi Carlile's set during "Joni Jam" at the Gorge Amphitheatre on Saturday. "I mean, Brandi Carlile and Joni Mitchell? It's a once in a lifetime opportunity," Garcia-Jacobson said.
Some of the more than 20,000 fans who watched Joni Mitchell at the Gorge Amphitheatre on Saturday.
/ Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
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Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
Some of the more than 20,000 fans who watched Joni Mitchell at the Gorge Amphitheatre on Saturday.
Left to right: Alexis Tackmann, Andrew Bryant, Donna Hardie, Lezlee Hardie and Jennifer Bryant sport red berets for Joni Mitchell.
/ Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
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Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
Left to right: Alexis Tackmann, Andrew Bryant, Donna Hardie, Lezlee Hardie and Jennifer Bryant sport red berets for Joni Mitchell.
Look at this view from "Joni Jam" at the Gorge Amphitheatre.
/ Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
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Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
Look at this view from "Joni Jam" at the Gorge Amphitheatre.
A member of the audience holds up a heart-shaped sign reading "Dear Joni the world loves you" during "Joni Jam" at the Gorge Amphitheatre.
/ Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
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Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
A member of the audience holds up a heart-shaped sign reading "Dear Joni the world loves you" during "Joni Jam" at the Gorge Amphitheatre.
The duo Lucius, in sea green attire, and a bespectacled Annie Lenox were some of the many special guests for "Joni Jam" at the Gorge Amphitheatre on Saturday night.
/ Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
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Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
The duo Lucius, in sea green attire, and a bespectacled Annie Lenox were some of the many special guests for "Joni Jam" at the Gorge Amphitheatre on Saturday night.
These fans had some of the best seats at the Gorge Amphitheatre on Saturday.
/ Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
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Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
These fans had some of the best seats at the Gorge Amphitheatre on Saturday.
Joni Mitchell and Brandi Carlile at the Gorge Amphitheatre on Saturday night.
/ Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
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Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
Joni Mitchell and Brandi Carlile at the Gorge Amphitheatre on Saturday night.
A twilight tableau from the Gorge Amphitheatre on Saturday.
/ Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
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Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
A twilight tableau from the Gorge Amphitheatre on Saturday.
Joni Mitchell was all smiles during "Joni Jam" at the Gorge Amphitheatre.
/ Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
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Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
Joni Mitchell was all smiles during "Joni Jam" at the Gorge Amphitheatre.
There were no "cheap seats" on Saturday night, but some were closer than others.
/ Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
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Jovelle Tamayo for NPR
There were no "cheap seats" on Saturday night, but some were closer than others.

Ann Powers is NPR Music's critic and correspondent. She writes for NPR's music news blog, The Record, and she can be heard on NPR's newsmagazines and music programs.