Panic at the Disco at Studio 540 of the Honda Corporation's headquarters, Torrence, January 10.

By Julie Seabaugh

Around 250 VIPs, suits and press members — and a few lucky teenagers — gathered Thursday afternoon inside Studio 540 of the Honda Corporation's Torrence headquarters for a media event featuring an acoustic set by Panic at the Disco, who are headlining the 2008 Honda Civic Tour.

Currently sans the exclamation point that punctuated the band name since its 2005 inception, singer Brendon Urie, guitarist/lyricst Ryan Ross, drummer Spencer Smith and bassist Jon Walker were introduced by tour veteran Mark Hoppus (blink-182, +44). Sporting a black Atticus tee and sky-high hair, Hoppus described the Decaydance recording artists’ look as “kind of like Oliver Twist and kind of like pirates,” gleefully kicked over microphone stands, then poked fun at the “lime-green, fairy-painted” Civic that Panic designed and will give away to a contest winner upon the tour’s completion.

Minor technical difficulties briefly delayed the first song, “We’re So Starving,” a requisite “We’re back!” ditty containing the lyrics, “It’s been so long. We’re so sorry we’ve been gone. We were busy writing songs for you.” Urie and Co. then segued into “Nine in the Afternoon,” a bouncing piano number containing rousing harmonies and an a capella-and-handclaps breakdown. Final new song “When the Day Met the Night” was the biggest departure from 2006’s platinum-selling A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, with even bigger harmonies, a tale of the sun and moon falling in love in the golden skies of summer and a hippie-dippy vibe more reminiscent of Golden Gate Park than the band’s Las Vegas hometown. The set concluded with Fever’s “I Write Sins, Not Tragedies” and a surprisingly faithful cover of The Band’s “The Weight.”

A brief audience Q & A followed. (Question: “Where did your exclamation point go?” Urie: “It’s missing right now. But I’m sure when we find it we’ll throw it back in, and I’m sure it will run off again, and then we’ll have to go put it back in. It’s cat-and-mouse, really.” Question: “I wanted to know if any of you were available.” All point to Urie.). Then the event steered to a brief, taciturn appearance by Decaydance owner and Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz, who apparently really likes Hondas, too.

Panic at the Disco’s sophomore album, Pretty. Odd., comes out – with no exclamation point – March 25.

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