"I just want to say I haven't been away."

Au contraire, Morrissey. The former Smiths singer should've had his fingers crossed when he sang that line from "The Loop" Monday night at the State Theatre, his first Minneapolis show since 2000 -- and one that his adoring local fans were clearly looking forward to more than he was.

"How is life in Funnyapolis?" he cheekily asked 30 minutes into the sold-out 90-minute set, before turning on his trademark snideness: "Do you think you'll ever leave? ... When?"

The British rock icon, 49, could've been setting up the next song, "Let Me Kiss You," with its opening lyric, "There's a place in the sun/ For anyone who has the will to chase one." But it was more likely just another of the many signs in Monday's rapidly paced, occasionally clumsy but mostly entertaining concert that the Pope of Mope -- even after a long hiatus from the local stage -- was still his charming old self.

Charming in his thoroughly trying way, that is.

"We love you unconditionally," one fan said when the singer instructed her to say something into the microphone.

"That's not good enough," Morrissey shot back.

When another fan admitted she was "shaky" in his presence, he replied, "Go get a Tylenol."

These flashpot-like displays of personality -- "personality" is a polite word for it, anyway -- were probably the most entertaining thing about the concert. After that, the highlights were the five Smiths songs that he and his punchy band tore through, starting with the show-opener "This Charming Man" and soon followed by another way-oldie, "How Soon Is Now?" Best of all was an especially stormy, strobe-lit "Death of a Disco Dancer" mid-concert ("Ask" and "I Keep Mine Hidden" rounded out the list).

Some of the newest songs were also very Smiths-like, including the pre-encore closer "I'm OK by Myself" and "Let Me Kiss You." He gave the latter song a much-needed spicing-up by tearing off the plaid shirt he wore to match his band, and dramatically throwing it into the crowd. He also tossed his replacement shirt into the crowd at show's end. Yep, he's the same fit, meatless Moz when bare-chested, too.

The better new songs were the feistier and heavier rockers from this year's mostly potent album, "Years of Refusal," including "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris" and "Something Is Squeezing My Skull." As the latter title suggests, though, even these more manly sounding tunes were spiked with the old melodramatic Moz personality.

Ultimately, there really wasn't much about the show that felt new, even after Mr. M's nine years away. This makes the guy's consistent refusal to stage a Smiths reunion less justifiable, but it also made one line from "The Loop" ring true in the end: "I'm still right here where I always was."

See Morrissey's set list and fan comments at startribune.com/poplife.

Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658