Neither the electric guitar nor the blues could have received more joyous treatment than they did at the Capital Centre last night. Eric Clapton and Ry Cooder synthesized the musical tradition of gospel, blues and rock 'n' roll, creating intensely personal music that raised more than a few goosebumps even within this arena's vast confines.

Eric Clapton was marvelous. Driven by a powerful rhythm section that included bassist Duck Dunn and colored by Albert Lee's intricate guitar picking, Clapton's music would have been wonderful if he had never played a note. Of course, he played lots of notes--beautiful ones, shaped into carefully controlled and often exquisite solos. From the sublime "Let It Rain" to the rapturous "Layla," he played all of his '70s hits, some scintillating blues and more for an ecstatic audience.

If Clapton's blues flowed, Ry Cooder's were twisted into some tough, gospel-based R&B by Cooder's heavily syncopated guitar stylings and gritty singing. Assisted by two gospel singers, Cooder's band rearranged classics like "Money Honey" into funky workouts for sax, piano and guitar. The set's highlight, however, was during the dirge-like "How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times as These": Cooder played an extended slide guitar break as tragic and moving as the unemployment rate.