Bob Dylan & The Heartbreakers Play Surprise Set At Farm Aid 2023
Dylan was on guitar for a set featuring three songs from 1965, including classics he hadn’t played since 2011 and 2013.
Bob Dylan was the surprise guest at Farm Aid on Saturday, where he performed a three-song set backed by members of The Heartbreakers. Dylan’s appearance at the benefit concert held this year at Ruoff Music Center in Noblesville, Indiana marked his first time playing Farm Aid since the inaugural event in 1985.
Ever since 2012 Bob Dylan has played keyboards for nearly all of his concerts. Dylan was back on guitar tonight at Farm Aid as he traded licks with Mike Campbell. Campbell’s Heartbreaker bandmates Benmont Tench was on keys and Steve Ferrone was on drums for the surprise set. The band was rounded out by Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs guitarist Chris Holt and bassist Lance Morrison.
Bob Dylan opened with his first “Maggie’s Farm” since performing the Bringing It All Back Home gem at the Grammys in 2011. Dylan and the awe-inspiring ensemble then worked through “Positively 4th Street.” The 82-year-old musician last played the 1965 single on November 7, 2013. Dylan stuck to material from 1965 by closing with “Ballad Of A Thin Man,” which he previously performed back on December 8, 2019.
The surprise Bob Dylan set came in addition to performances by Farm Aid board members Neil Young, Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews (with Tim Reynolds) and Margo Price as well as Bobby Weir & Wolf Bros, The String Cheese Incident, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Lukas Nelson, Allison Russell and Particle Kid, The Jim Irsay Band featuring Ann Wilson (Heart), Black Opry Revue (Lori Rayne, Tylar Bryant and Kyshona), Clayton Anderson, Wisdom Indian Dancers and Native Pride Productions.
It was Bob Dylan who helped inspire Nelson to organize the first Farm Aid in 1985. As pointed out by Billboard, Dylan asked during his set at the Live Aid benefit for Ethiopian famine relief on July 13, 1985 in Philadelphia if a similar concert could raise funds for America’s family farmers.
“The question hit me like a ton of bricks,” Nelson recalled to Billboard in 2015 of his experience watching the set and seeing the query from Bob Dylan. Willie went on to organize the initial Farm Aid which took place in Champaign, Illinois on September 22, 1985.
Young and Mellencamp co-founded the benefit with Nelson and the trio recruited an all-star lineup that included Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Don Henley, Loretta Lynn, Bonnie Raitt and many others. Dylan performed with Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers setting the stage for multiple tours over the following two years for Petty, Dylan and The Heartbreakers.
Farm Aid 2023 was livestreamed including the surprise Bob Dylan set. The footage was still viewable as of press time. Watch the livestream and clips of Bob’s set below:
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Set: Maggie’s Farm, Positively 4th Street, Ballad Of A Thin Man