As Brit-pop's patron saint of things smartly smarmy, sexually obsessive and shyly sensitive, Morrissey - regarded as divine since he fronted the Smiths from 1982 to 1987 - has become more iconic with each solo effort.

It's odd, then, that an idol so untouchable has grown more willing than ever to engage his feverish fans.

Take his show on Monday at the Mann Center.

With a graying, spiky pompadour and a thicker middle than in his waifish youth, Morrissey, 48, may appear more pope than saint. But he was joviality personified. He joked with fans whom he passed his mike, pulled faces like a kid, and threw more than few snazzy dress shirts into the throng.

His warbly voice may have been a bit raw (Moz canceled earlier dates in Philly and Atlantic City due to illness). But that edge only added huskiness to his snide, incendiary lyrics.

The once-mannered likes of "The Queen Is Dead" and "Everyday Is Like Sunday" became, respectively, a tight psychedelic swirl and a dense jangle through which his gruff voice punctuated words like snap and scratch like an ice pick. He slowed "Girlfriend in a Coma" to a breathy, heartbreaking standstill and gave the gutter-sniping "You Have Killed Me" an off-key sexiness.

While Moz filled songs with falsetto hoots and animal growls, his sprightly, rocking five-piece had its own palette to paint from, handsomely applying heavy glam-rock colors to the T. Rex-ish "In the Future When All's Well" and the Roxy Music-esque "Whatever Happens, I Love You."

Though most of his rarely played Smiths songs were sturdy and supple, "The Boy With the Thorn in His Side" and "Girlfriend" came across as frail - making Morrissey's own melodies seem grander and muscular in comparison.

Morrissey fans: Don't look back.

In the unenviable position of opener, Kristeenyoung was a smashing, wiry outfit whose pianist/singer Kristeen Young and drummer "Baby" Jeff White took a skeletal approach to cabaret pop and nervous rock with Kate Bush-like prowess.