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Joni Mitchell Reclaims Her Voice at Newport

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The highlight of the set, though, was “Each Sides, Now,” a song that a 23-year-old Mitchell wrote in 1967, the identical yr she played Newport for the primary time. Back then, some critics scoffed on the lyrics’ presumptive wisdom: What could a 23-year-old girl possibly find out about each side of life? But over time, the song has revealed itself to contain fathomless depths which have only been audible in later interpretations.

When she was 56, Mitchell rereleased a lush version of “Each Sides, Now” on her 2000 album of the identical name, backed by a 70-piece orchestra. Her voice was deeper, elegiac and elegantly weary. “It’s life’s illusions I recall,” she sang at the top of the song, “I actually don’t know life in any respect.”

That version was considered a tear-jerker (and used to this effect in a classic scene from the movie “Love, Actually”), but nonetheless, it’s easy to search out pathos in getting older. Aging inherently brings suffering, debilitation and loss — this is just not news. What Mitchell’s 2022 performance of the song asserted was that it could possibly also bring serendipity, long-delayed gratification and joy. Ever an authority re-interpreter of her own material, Mitchell breathed recent meaning into a few of her most famous lyrics. “I could drink a case of you, and I’d still be on my feet,” she sang with Carlile, the road becoming not only a challenge to a lover, but a survivor’s boast to life itself.

Part of what’s so heartening about Mitchell’s recent pop cultural revival, like Bush’s surprise chart resurgence, is that it allows a beloved if somewhat underappreciated artist to receive her laurels while she’s still living. (Wynonna Judd, still grieving her mother Naomi’s death, was also onstage with Mitchell and wept openly throughout “Each Sides, Now” — a visible reminder of a crueler fate and the inherent dichotomy of the song.) In a culture that excessively scrutinizes women as they age, or just renders them invisible and erases their influence, it felt like a quietly radical act to honor Mitchell in this fashion. Younger artists got the prospect to pay earnest homage to their elder; a mature woman who was not yet finished reinterpreting her life’s work reclaimed the stage.

Surrounded by an adoring crowd of friends, fellow musicians, and admirers — a lot of whom weren’t yet born when Mitchell wrote “Each Sides, Now” — she appeared to sing it this time with a grinning shrug: I actually don’t know life in any respect. As if to say: You never know — anything can occur. Even this.

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