Bob Dylan Surprises Farm Aid Crowd with Short Set Backed by The Heartbreakers

Fans attending the sold-out Farm Aid festival on Saturday (September 23), at the Ruoff Music Center in Noblesville, Indiana, were stunned when Bob Dylan came on stage to perform a three-song set with members of The Heartbreakers. The performance marked Dylan’s first time at Farm Aid since its 1985 debut in Champaign, Illinois.

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Joined by The Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell, keyboardist Benmont Tench, and drummer Steve Ferrone, Dylan, 82, walked out without any introduction and played a short set, filling the spot between Farm Aid co-founders Neil Young and Willie Nelson, who closed the night closer to midnight.

A still silhouette in black on stage, Dylan opened with “Maggie’s Farm,” released on his 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home, followed by another song from that year, “Positively 4th Street,” which he recorded in New York City between albums Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde, and released as a single. This also marked the first time Dylan has performed “Positively 4th Street” since 2013.

Dylan closed his brief set with his Highway 61 Revisited track “Ballad of a Thin Man.”

[RELATED: Bob Dylan Launches Songwriter Fellowship]

The set also marked another rare moment for Dylan, who played guitar on stage for the first time in seven years. Typically behind a piano, Dylan stopped playing guitar more than a decade ago, reportedly due to arthritis, and has only played one on rare occasions since then.

The last time Dylan played guitar on stage was during a performance in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2016, on the same day he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Literature. He hadn’t played guitar prior to then since a 2012 performance in Chicago with Dire StraitsMark Knopfler.

This year marked the third year Farm Aid was held in Indiana. In addition to Dylan, Young, and Nelson, the 2023 lineup also featured performances by Allison Russell, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Lukas Nelson, The String Cheese Incident, Particle Kid, and Bobby Weir & Wolf Bros featuring The Wolfpack.

Photo: Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

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