Dylan smiles
Sunday, December 17, Philadelphia.

The tour is knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door. This is it. The final day. And I'm feeling nostalgic already.

I hang out with Lenny Kaye in his hotel room, talking about what has been accomplished on -- and demanded by -- the tour.

"We haven't done this in a long time," he says, "the rock-and-roll thing, even longer. It's really like learning from scratch. We had no preconceptions. All that really counts is the show that evening, or the recording we're doing that day. We're not only improvising on stage, we're figuring out how to present ourselves so that we feel contemporaneous with ourselves, so it's not some nostalgia thing."

"You've created a space where Patti can step out and begin her ad-lib poetry-glossolalia again," I say. "That, I think, is the most significant news from this tour."

"That's a really big part of what Patti does, and probably the most unique," Lenny replies. "It's like free-form jazz. I'm glad that's started to open up, because it means those things are still within us."

Lenny will turn 49 on December 27, three days before Patti does the same. But he's in better shape than I, 13 years his junior. Here they are -- two parents with family obligations -- and they can still rock with the youngest among us.

At 5 p.m., this last night, I take Verlaine out to dinner and get my interview with the master. Now, finally, I can relax and enjoy the show.

Tonight, for the first time on the tour, Dylan plays "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" -- as an encore. Patti walks onstage next to him, in a black velvet dress with white fringe. Dylan is singing, "Ma, wipe these tears off my eyes," and Patti is gently touching his cheek. She sings her verse, and Dylan plays a lilting guitar lead. They trade lines ("knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door") back and forth.

As the refrain builds, Dylan cracks a smile. It grows each time Patti sings, until he is overcome by a sublime, joyous laughter.

As the Men in Hats band colors the final bars of the tune, Patti Smith, her resurrection fulfilled, turns around again, and slowly, step by step, fades back into the darkness, walking . . . out . . . into . . . the . . . world.

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