Photo/IllutrationYasumasa Hamaguchi, left, Kyoji Aono, center, and Masaharu Kaneyasu arrived in front of the main stage of Fuji Rock Festival ’18, hours before Bob Dylan was scheduled to perform with his band on the evening of July 29 (Akiko Minato)

  • Photo/Illustraion

YUZAWA, Niigata Prefecture--Bob Dylan, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, headlined the Fuji Rock music festival here July 29 with a blistering 16-song set.

Despite unstable weather due to a typhoon, fans of all ages flocked to the Naeba Ski Resort here from across the nation to witness Dylan, 77, giving his first performance at an outdoor musical festival in Japan.

Dylan and his band played for about 90 minutes, opening with "Things Have Changed" and closing with "Blowin' in the Wind."

Other early hits included "It Ain't Me, Babe," "Highway 61 Revisited," "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" and "Desolation Row."

He surprised many in the audience by standing up from his keyboards and acknowledging the crowd as he was closing out each song.

The three-day music festival began July 27.

Dylan and his band was scheduled to take the stage at 6:50 p.m. on the last day. The number of middle-aged and older audience members seemed markedly higher than during the first two days.

The 12th typhoon of the season that was passing south of the ski resort dumped occasional heavy rain, but that did not dampen the spirits of hard-core fans, many of whom began congregating in front of the stage many hours before Dylan was scheduled to come on, to secure a prime viewing spot.

Seiichiro Takahashi, 65, who first heard Dylan’s music in 1972 when he was in his first year at university, was already at the stage around 2 p.m.

He recalled being instantly “gripped 10 seconds into” Dylan’s first album.

Instead of attending the full three days of the festival, Takahashi left Tokyo by car early July 29 with four other Dylan fans, aged 27 to 70.

“What is the genre of Bob’s music?” Takahashi mused before stating that rock and folk are only a part of his musical genius.

“He belongs to a genre called Bob Dylan,” Takahashi said.

The rain was coming down in buckets by the time Takahashi got to the front of the stage, and his traveling companions suggested they take shelter.

But he refused to give up his spot, saying, “I'd rather stake my life on the line.”

Niigata Prefecture resident Kyoji Aono, 64, and Masaharu Kaneyasu, 63, left their homes at 4:30 a.m. and had been waiting in front of the stage since shortly after 9 a.m.

In his 20s, Aono sang and played guitar in a band called “Bob II,” a nod to Dylan.

“Having Dylan perform in my hometown is sort of like an emergency," Aono said. “I had no choice, but to come.”

Kaneyasu has been a Dylan fan for four decades, but this was the first time to see the American musician perform live.

“I thought it would be great if I could breathe the same air as him," Kaneyasu said. "I still can't believe that I'm seeing him with my own eyes. Dylan has been part of my life for so long, and I am so thankful that he is still performing.”

Next to the pair was Yasumasa Hamaguchi, 57, from Kyoto Prefecture. He took a night bus with two friends, departing from Osaka at 11 p.m. the previous evening.

Prior to boarding, they held a party with 10 fellow fans to celebrate being able to see Dylan perform live in Japan. Hamaguchi said some who were unable to attend the music festival were reduced to tears.

Despite the overnight bus trip and 10-hour wait before Dylan and his fellow musicians took to the stage, Hamaguchi was well-prepared with waterproof gear, drinks and an extra battery for his smartphone.

He joked that he hoped it would be the last time for Dylan to perform in a music festival in a remote mountain area so far from his home.

Dylan started a few minutes earlier than scheduled and performed for about an hour and a half, finishing with his trademark “Blowin’ in the Wind” as darkness enveloped the night.

Aono and Kaneyasu called the performance “awesome.”

Takahashi said, “It was amazing, stunning,” adding, "Young people who happened to be here today were very lucky.”

Keisuke Koyamatsu, 70, who is the oldest member of Takahashi's party, said, “Bob the bluesman has made a comeback.”