It was a night of Old Testament-style blues hellfire and brimstone, with Cain and Abel being played by a pair of nonchalant British dudes who portrayed a unique form of sibling rivalry: They traded their blows in song with fists of cascading guitar licks.
Manning one side of the stage was Steve Winwood, singing in that untethered, high-strung, just-sat-on-a-thumbtack voice of his, legs going crazy beneath a shiny black piano from time to time.
A few away feet stood Eric Clapton, a man of rubber wrists.
It's almost as if Clapton talks the notes out of his instrument, mouth agape, lips moving, massaging the neck of his Stratocaster as if to soften its resolve.
His guitar is like another vocalist -- and a pretty verbose one at that -- giving loud, fierce voice to those emotions that can't always be put into words.
Together after almost four decades apart, Clapton and Winwood exchanged plenty of friendly fire at the MGM Grand Garden on Saturday night.
The two revisited the band that first brought them together some 40 years, the short-lived Blind Faith, as well as the vintage blues chestnuts that they initially bonded over to begin with.
The last time Clapton was in town, playing a solo show at the same venue two years ago, he ceded much of the spotlight to guitarist Derek Trucks, who was touring with Clapton at the time.
Clapton gave Trucks such leeway, that some audience members openly grumbled about him taking too much of a back seat to his younger counterpart.
But there would be no such complaints on this night.
Clapton was in particularly invigorated form, soloing for days on end.
Like an athlete who plays up to his level of competition, it was as if having such a worthy foil in Winwood brought out the best in him.
You could go get a beer, hit the bathroom, eat a pretzel, darn a sweater, learn Spanish, come back to your seat, and Clapton would still be in the midst of the same solo as when you left.
It suited the tenor of the evening.
The blues is not a genre posited on ambivalence or shades of gray. It's an all-or-nothing kind of sound. The sentiment is palpable, and the playing tends to be similarly overheated.
Such was the case at the MGM Grand.
Clapton and Winwood wrapped their arms around Big Maceo's "Tough Luck Blues" and Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile" the way a 2-year-old grips his mother's leg, holding on for dear life, refusing to let go.
They turned the songs into extended, long-winded jams, taking the scenic route through each other's various solo hits (Clapton's snarling "Forever Man," Winwood's plucky "Split Decision.")
Playing as part of a quintet, with but two backing singers adding some soul to the proceedings, Clapton and Winwood shone in such a spare, unadorned setting, their nuclear playing emphasized by a lack of musical padding.
"It was already written that today would be one to remember," Winwood sang on a show-opening "Had To Cry Today."
Those were the first words out of his mouth, and after two-plus hours of biblical blues, they'd prove to be their own sort of gospel.
Contact Jason Bracelin at 383-0476 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.