Bob Dylan Surprises at Farm Aid 2023

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Bob Dylan with Mike Campbell performing “Maggie’s Farm” at Farm Aid 2023

Bob Dylan was a surprise guest at Farm Aid’s 2023 concert. The legendary musician played a three-song set, backed by members of the Heartbreakers including guitarist Mike Campbell, keyboardist Benmont Tench and drummer Steve Ferrone (along with members of Campbell’s band, The Dirty Knobs). There he was, following a set change, and almost as surprising, playing guitar as he began to sing “Maggie’s Farm.” Dylan followed with “Positively 4th Street” and “Ballad of a Thin Man.” An off-the-cuff comment by Dylan at Live Aid about the plight of the American farmer led to its creation in 1985.

Watch Dylan perform all three songs

Dylan’s most recent concert was July 9 in Rome, Italy, when he completed a European leg of his “Rough and Rowdy Ways” tour. The tour resumes on Oct. 1 when he begins a lengthy North American run. (Tickets are available here and here.) His performance upstaged the September 23 concert which was led by the return of board member Neil Young to the performing lineup with a four-song set of his own (“Comes a Time,” “Are There Any More Real Cowboys?,” “Love Earth” and “Heart of Gold.”

Joining Young at the annual music and food festival were fellow board members Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews (with Tim Reynolds), and Margo Price. The event returned to Noblesville, Indiana, at Ruoff Music Center. Tickets were priced from $75 to $315.

From the July 11 announcement: Farm Aid 2023 — a full day of music, family farmers, homegrown food and agrarian experiences — will also feature performances by Bobby Weir & Wolf Bros featuring The Wolfpack, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Lukas Nelson, Allison Russell, The String Cheese Incident, and Particle Kid. The festival will highlight the work of family farmers to address climate change through regenerative, organic and sustainable farming practices. Farm Aid will showcase these innovative climate champions on the Farm Aid stage and throughout the event.

Young did not appear at Farm Aid in 2021 or 2022. “I am not ready for that yet,” he wrote last year. “I don’t think it is safe in the pandemic. I miss it very much.” He returned to live performing in June 2023.

“Back in 1985, I got a phone call,” said Young, “talking about a concert for farmers. I’m so lucky to have had this be a part of my life,” as he introduced Nelson.

“Family farmers have the solutions to some of our toughest challenges,” said Nelson, Farm Aid’s President and Founder. “As we face a changing climate, farmers in Indiana, across the Midwest and all over the country are farming in ways that create more resilient farms to build healthy soils and protect our water.”

This is the third Farm Aid concert that has taken place in Indiana, and the second in Noblesville. Farm Aid IV took place at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis in 1990, and Farm Aid 2001: A Concert for America was held in Noblesville just weeks after the terrorist attacks of 2001.

“We are honored and excited to bring the Farm Aid experience back to Indiana. My home state holds deep meaning for me and for the generations of family farmers who have dedicated their lives to caring for the Earth and bringing us good food,” said Farm Aid Co-Founder Mellencamp.

Farm Aid festival attendees experience a full day of music and the taste of local flavors with Farm Aid’s homegrown Concessions®, which offer a diverse, fresh menu with ingredients that are produced by family farmers using ecological practices with a fair price paid to the farmers.

Board member Margo Price and Sturgill Simpson cleverly performed Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” with its opening lyric, “she grew up in an Indiana town…”

Thanks to Doug Heck for the great clips. Best Classic Bands will continue to update the story.

Best Classic Bands Staff

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