On Monday night, Minneapolis singer-songwriter Paul Metsa seemed almost as discombobulated at the Parkway Theater as the Vikings’ offense did at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The difference is that while the Vikes had a playbook that went nowhere, Metsa worked without a setlist yet still managed to triumph. That’s because he’s a captivating storyteller, whether in song or in conversation, and an adept audible caller, especially when he gets help from his highly skilled musical friends.
Celebrating the 40th anniversary of his first gig in Minneapolis, the raconteur managed to spin a yarn about his Twin Cities debut (at a Hennepin Avenue strip joint where the owner was Big Reggie Colihan, who’d presented the first Stones and Beatles shows in the Twin Cities) as well as his first band in his hometown of Virginia, Minn., and various other adventures in his peripatetic life.
To back up his stories and his songs, Metsa was joined by musicians from throughout his life, including high school pals Tim O’Keefe, Joe Luoma and Jack Pasternacki (who were in Cats Under the Stars with him), and Minneapolis harmonica player Sonny Earl, his duo partner of 22 years.
Metsa also honored his other recent duo partner, Willie Walker, who died last month at age 77, by showing video clips of them collaborating on “What a Wonderful World” and “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Working solo or backed by six musicians and two singers, Metsa offered tastes of various parts of his career, including the stellar “59 Coal Mines” and “Stars over the Prairie.”
A supporter of various causes including clean water, food shelves and dog adoption, Metsa talked about his activism throughout his two long, rambling sets. One of the best self-promoters in the local music scene, he plugged his radio show on 950 AM and TV program on cable channel 6 and hyped his upcoming poetry book, “Alphabet Jazz,” and his 2011 name-dropping memoir “Blue Guitar Highway,” which is as highly entertaining as Monday’s concert was.
Early in the evening, emcee and musician about town Bobby Vandell read a proclamation from Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey declaring Monday Paul Metsa Day.
Metsa said he was especially pleased that the proclamation pointed out that all 12 of his albums had “gone linoleum.”
A sense of humor is part of his deep playbook.