NEW YORK – For Nine Inch Nails fans, there was no better place to be Monday than Webster Hall.

“I’m sorry for (messing) with anyone’s Monday night plans,” frontman Trent Reznor joked to the rapt, sweaty crowd, who gathered in the historic 1,500-capacity venue for a surprise sold-out show that the band had only announced that morning.

The intimate gig came a night after Nine Inch Nails headlined New York’s Panorama music festival Sunday, where Reznor paid tribute to late friend David Bowie with a stirring cover of his I Can’t Give Everything Away. Although he didn’t reprise the number on Monday, the industrial-rock pioneer still rewarded devotees with two vintage tracks: the hypnotic Sanctified, from the band’s 1989 debut album Pretty Hate Machine,  and the percussive Somewhat Damaged, from 1999’s The Fragile, both of which have been absent from NIN’s recent handful of shows.

The brisk set list indulged fans of their new and old material with a healthy mix of both. Latest single Less Than, from last month’s experimental Add Violence EP, was given a fittingly ferocious performance, while Reznor’s voice soared on the darkly dreamlike, downtempo The Lovers. Concertgoers head-banged and pumped their fists to raucous favorites March of the Pigs and Gave Up, and even attempted some unsuccessful crowd-surfing during Burn.

Reznor kept the stage banter to a minimum, only briefly getting somewhat political after performing Year Zero protest anthem Survivalism, which vehemently describes a militant state and urges people to stay diligent.

“We wrote that song 10 years ago, thinking it was science fiction,” Reznor said. “And now — I don’t know what the (expletive) is happening now.”  

Reznor, a brawny and agile 52, stuck to his go-to uniform of a black t-shirt and jeans, cradling his microphone and hurling himself across the stage as yellow and white lights flashed throughout the hour-and-a-half, electronic-heavy set. Expected crowd-pleasers Closer, Wish and Head Like a Holewere all roaring, angsty sing-alongs, although many fans seemed visibly disappointed that Reznor and his four-piece band ended without playing Hurt, the usual encore at this year’s shows. 

Nine Inch Nails will play Chicago’s Riot Fest next month and Sacramento’s Monster Energy Aftershock Festival in October. The band has promised more North American dates next year. 

The full set list:

  1. Somewhat Damaged
  2. 1,000,000
  3. March of the Pigs
  4. The Frail / The Wretched
  5. Sanctified
  6. Closer
  7. Less Than
  8. Survivalism
  9. Burn
  10. Gave Up
  11. She’s Gone Away
  12. The Lovers
  13. Reptile
  14. The Great Destroyer
  15. Burning Bright (Field on Fire)
  16. Wish
  17. Head Like a Hole

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