WELCOME IN a new decade at one of the many concerts and special events happening tonight through New Year's Eve and this weekend. Daily News music writers Shaun Brady, Tom Di Nardo, James Johnson and Jonathan Takiff have sorted through the venues and schedules for you, pulling out the best in rock, hip-hop, jazz, classical and more.

Put on your party shoes and start celebrating!

Listen to the Word

Good-time rocking music is definitely on tap at area concert spots this week, frothy stuff to get your mind and body floating happily into the new year. One of the most promising of shows actually lands a night earlier. But where does it say a celebration can't start until Dec. 31?

Usually busy with their own projects, it's taken a special alignment of the planets to reconvene the supergroup that is The Word for just three shows, including tomorrow's here.

For the uninitiated, the Word was born as "sacred steel" guitar master Robert Randolph's coming-out party from the sheltered world of Pentecostal church services where he was jamming hard, fast and juicy in the name of the Lord.

To tap a wider audience for his shimmering sound, Randolph admirers John Medeski (keyboardist for the jazz-rock trio Medeski, Martin and Wood) and the combo of Chris Chew, Cody Dickinson and Luther Dickinson (collectively the North Mississippi Allstars) gathered with the pedal-steel player in 2000 for a knockout studio session of gospel-rocking music.

Bending to the guitarist's will, the album released as "The Word" pumped new life into old spirituals like "I'll Fly Away" and "Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning," and lit a fire under Randolph's semi-secular career with his own Family Band.

This is music to lift you up, to set your mind and body on a positive course. How better to usher in the New Year?

TLA, 334 South St., 8 p.m. tomorrow, $27.50, 877-598-8696, www.livenation.com.

School of Rock Allstars: Some of these pint-size players aren't old enough to stay up till midnight. But put a guitar in their hands and they can rock all night. Fans and family get two chances to catch them this evening, for a very "grown-up" ticket price. World Café Live, 3025 Walnut St., 6 and 9:30 tonight, $25, 215-222-1400, worldcafelive.com.

Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams: At once rootsy and refined, this "art school Americana" band has earned a big local following, thanks to hot sets at the Philadelphia Folk and XPoNential Music festivals. And it doesn't hurt that lead singer Joziah Longo is a local guy. The band is celebrating New Year's a night early, so Longo's friends and family, who perform in mummers' groups (like the Quaker City String Band), can attend. Expect juicy originals, seasonal faves and some Broad Street Strutters' staples, all done up Slabovian style. World Café Live, 3025 Walnut St., 7:30 p.m. tomorrow, $27-$40, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com.

Brothers Past: Formed in 2000, this Philly-based jam band celebrates its first decade on the night when past and future coalesce. With Orchard Lounge. TLA, 334 South St., 9 p.m. Thursday, $32, $35, $26.25 (four-pack individual), 877-598-8696, www.livenation.com.

Davy Knowles and Back Door Slam: While hailing from the isolated Isle of Man, Knowles' musical heart has always been on the streets of London, attached to British blues-rock masters like Eric Clapton, John Mayall and Mark Knopfler. Just don't hit us with "Born Under a Bad Sign" on your New Year's Eve show, OK? Christina Havrilla deals first with the pumped crowd. World Café Live, 3025 Walnut St., 10 p.m. Thursday, $40-$75 (plus $20 per person food/beverage minimum requirement), 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com.

Slo-Mo: A more contemporary blues vibe will be buzzing Upstairs at WCL New Year's Eve, as hipster blues/funk/folk-rock slide guitarist Mike Brenner and his nimble wordsmith DJ Mic Wrecka drop their distinctly Phillycized music on the cognoscenti. Fresh baked sweets from the Donuts are also yours to enjoy. Upstairs at World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St., 10 p.m. Thursday, $20, 215-222-1400, worldcafelive.com.

The Radiators: Now also identifying themselves as the New Orleans Radiators, this jamming Crescent City party band is practically taking up residence at a favorite area haunt this holiday week. And encouraging band followers to book local accommodations to stay over, too, bless their hearts. Palombaro Club, 2632 E. County Line Road, Ardmore, 9 p.m. Thursday, $75; 9 p.m. Friday-Saturday, $35; three-night ticket available in advance, $125. Enjoy a preshow Italian dinner downstairs Thursday and Friday with advance reservation, 610-642-9730, info@kountylinekrewe.com.

Steve Forbert: Our favorite fuzzy-headed, silk-'n'-sandpaper-throated, folk-rock ruminator will get you thinking about time's passages in his intimate New Year's Eve stint. And given the good restaurant just downstairs, you can make a night of it. Chris Schutz opens. Tin Angel, 20 S. 2nd St., 8 and 10:30 p.m. Thursday, $35/$45. Prix fixe dinner, $85, at Serrano downstairs. 215-928-0978, www.tinangel.com.

Lotus: Funky/jangly, mostly instrumental rock laced with dabs of electronica and Jamaican dub served up for your whirling, swirling pleasure. But first, Canadian turntablists MSTRKRFT (pronounced "master craft") spin you into a daze. Electric Factory, 7th and Willow streets, 9 p.m. Thursday, $32, 215-627-1332, www.livenation.com.

Cinematic Titanic: The crazed geniuses behind "Mystery Science Theater 3000" aren't musicians. But they sure riff like they are, throwing out comedic retorts as bad (really bad) sci-fi/horror movies play on the big screen. The goofiest, laugh-filled New Year's Eve event you may ever attend. Keswick Theatre, Easton Road and Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, $52.50, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com.

Breakwater: It's been aeons since this horn-bedecked Philadelphia rock-'n'-soul band (onetime "Arista recording artists") have done their collective thing. Mark this reunion "extra-special." World Café Live, 3025 Walnut St., 7:30 p.m. Sunday, $30-$40, 215-222-1400, worldcafelive.com.

Little Feat: The true innovators in Dixie chicken blues/boogie/rockabilly/jazz are celebrating their 40th year at the game. Keswick Theatre, Easton Road and Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 8 p.m. Saturday, $29.50 and $39.50, 215-572-7650, keswicktheatre.com.

Hip-hopping nights

Fans of hip-hop and R&B will have plenty of entertainment options New Year's Eve, starting with Philadelphia Slick, who will set up shop in Old City at the Khyber. The local hip-hop band will perform with Mechanical Mines and Emcee Unless. DJ Dunson will spin.

Northern Liberties will get its share of good music, too, as Silk City's weekly Mo Money, No Problems party does it big to kick off the New Year. Resident DJs Sammy Slice and Cool Hand Luke will be joined by host Tu Phace for hours of great music, drink specials and a complimentary champagne toast at midnight.

Finally, those making their way to the Jersey Shore will be able to enjoy the sweet sounds of Natalie Cole at the Tropicana Showroom, a performance that's sure to be unforgettable.

Khyber, 56 S. 2nd St., 9 p.m. Thursday, $10, 21-plus, 215-238-5888, www.thekhyber.com.

Silk City, 435 Spring Garden St., 9 p.m. Thursday, $12 in advance, $15 at the door, 21-plus, 215-592-8838, www.silkcityphilly.com.

Tropicana Showroom, Brighton and Boardwalk avenues, Atlantic City, N.J., 10:30 p.m. Thursday, 9 p.m. Friday, $35-$100, 609-340-4000, www.tropicana.net.

John Legend: The Grammy-winning singer and University of Penn graduate will spend the first day of 2010 in Atlantic City, offering an incredibly soulful and dynamic live show. Borgata Event Center, One Borgata Way, Atlantic City, N.J., 8 p.m. Friday, $66, $86 and $96, 1-866-692-6742, www.theborgata.com.

Welcome Back To Jamrock: DJ Kenny Meez's weekly reggae party marks the first day of the year by welcoming special guest West Philly's DJ Uni-T. The Arts Garage, 1533-35 Ridge Ave., 10 p.m. Friday, free, 21-plus, 215-765-2702, theartsgarage.com.

Mariah Carey: One of the most popular female artists of all time, this multiplatinum-selling singer is still going strong 20 years after her self-titled debut album release. Borgata Event Center, One Borgata Way, 8 p.m. Saturday, $165, $195 and $235, Atlantic City, 1-866-692-6742, www.theborgata.com.

The HYPE's 2nd Annual Recovery Day Jam: Vocalist Boy Wonder helps you shake off your New Year's Eve hangover with good music! Enjoy the continuation of this great tradition with Leah Smith, Wyldlyfe, Nichole Lynn and more. World Café Live, 3025 Walnut St., 6 p.m. Saturday, $13, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com.

Soulfège: Fronted by Harvard-educated MC/activist Ashong, this band blends elements of hip-hop, reggae and funk for some very interesting and politically tinged music. World Café Live, 3025 Walnut St., 8 p.m. Sunday, $13 in advance, $15 day of show, 215-222-1400, worldcafelive.com.

Jazzed for the holiday

On Philly's jazz scene, New Year's Eve won't be about big blowout parties with lots of special guests. Instead, the occasion is being celebrated in both of the city's jazz venues with intimate gatherings of local notables.

The largest will be at Chris' Jazz Café, which will present three sets of music: the first by vibraphonist Tony Miceli's trio with drummer Webb Thomas. Then, for the rest of the evening, Miceli and Thomas will be joined by saxophone great Bootsie Barnes, bassist Dave Brodie and New York trumpeter Joe Magnarelli.

Drummer Mickey Roker will take his usual seat at the kit onstage at Ortlieb's, where he'll be joined by singer Denise King for a night sure to be filled with familiar standards.

Chris' Jazz Café, 1421 Sansom St., 8 p.m. Thursday, $25, 215-568-3131, www.chrisjazzcafe.com.

Ortlieb's Jazzhaus, 847 N. 3rd St., 8 p.m. Thursday, $15, 215-922-1035, www.ortliebsjazzhaus.com.

Kevin MacConnell and Tony Miceli: After ringing in 2010 until the wee hours the night before, vibist Miceli (and his audience) will surely need a quiet evening of music, which is what he promises for this set with bassist MacConnell. Philadelphia Museum of Art, 26th Street and Ben Franklin Parkway, 5:45 and 7:15 Friday, free with regular museum admission of $16, 215-763-8100, philamuseum.org.

Wade Dean Enspiration: For those who still have a bit of partying to get out of their systems, saxophonist Dean and his quintet of up-and-coming locals never let the energy flag in sets that incorporate funk and soul elements. Chris' Jazz Café, 1421 Sansom St., 8 and 10 p.m. Friday, $15, 215-568-3131, chrisjazzcafe.com.

Monkadelphia: Tony Miceli makes a clean sweep of the holiday weekend with this long-running project, performing the music of Thelonious Monk with a group of locals that also features saxophonist Chris Farr. Chris' Jazz Café, 1421 Sansom St., 8 and 10 p.m. Saturday, $20, 215-568-3131, www.chrisjazzcafe.com.

It's a classical gas!

In recent years, the Philadelphia Orchestra's New Year's Eve concert featured familiar and uplifting fare but never a big-name pop star.

This year changes that pattern, as Broadway luminary Audra McDonald and her quartet join in for the orchestra's year-end program. She's chosen some classic tunes from the Great White Way songbook, though curiously not from the many shows in which she electrified audiences with her vocal versatility and stage presence.

Rossen Milanov, who usually conducts at this event, will also lead Bernstein's Three Dance Episodes from "On the Town" and music by Gershwin.

Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Broad and Spruce streets, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, $53-$143, 215-893-1999, www.philorch.org.

BALLET

Pennsylvania Ballet: The spectacular production of Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker" is a welcome annual ritual, coming this year after performances at Washington, D.C.'s, Kennedy Center. One of the few companies licensed to use the brilliant choreography by George Balanchine, Pennsylvania Ballet's production boasts a recent update of sets and costumes. Academy of Music, Broad and Locust streets, noon and 4 p.m. today and tomorrow, noon Thursday, $24-$129, 215-893-1999, www.paballet.org.

CLASSICAL

Salute To Vienna: A troupe of more than 75 musicians, Viennese singers and dancers return to town with a new show. Niels Muus leads the Strauss Symphony Orchestra, with soprano Akiko Nakajima and tenor Karl Michael Ebner, plus dancers from the Vienna Dance Project. These familiar waltzes, polkas and marches by Johann Strauss Jr. and his famous family always evoke the New Year's mood. Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center, Broad and Spruce streets, 2:30 p.m. Sunday, $41-$111, 215-893-1999, kimmelcenter.org.