Music critics' picks

POP

With good reason, the (Grateful) Dead hold the record for the most shows (53) played by a musical attraction at the Spectrum - all sellouts. The fathers of the jam-band phenomenon return to the South Philly arena for two final forays into their kosmic world of boogie blues, noodling psychedelia, old-timey country, space jazz and more. A fund-raiser for Barack Obama at State College got the (formerly Grateful)Dead off their collective duffs last October. Now the group is touring in earnest, with the hardest working singer/guitarist in jam-land, Warren Haynes (Gov't Mule, Allman Brothers) filling those very big Jerry Garcia shoes, and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti (playmate of Bob Weir in his other group, Ratdog) promising not to implode like predecessors or the Spectrum. Tomorrow's four-hour gig will be carried live on Sirius/XM's Grateful Dead Channel (Sirius 32/XM 57) and online (free trial subscription available) at www.sirius.com/grateful

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Wachovia Spectrum, Broad Street and Pattison Avenue, 7:30 p.m. tonight and tomorrow, $65 and $95, 800-298-4200, www.comcasttix.com.

- Jonathan Takiff

HIP-HOP, R&B

Just 23, Lady Sovereign has been one of the most prominent artists from the United Kingdom's hip-hop-influenced grime scene. The London-born rapper was the first non-American female to be signed to Def Jam, and the video for her single "Love Me Or Hate Me" was the first song by a British artist to reach No. 1 on MTV's "Total Request Live." Her rapid-fire flow, English accent and iconoclastic lyrics have made Sov one of hip-hop's fastest-rising stars. She'll be joined by the pop duo Chester French - Harvard friends Maxwell Drummey and D.A. Wallach, who've been riding a wave of success thanks to their single "She Loves Everybody." They've toured with artists such as Common, N.E.R.D. and Lady Gaga. Chicago MC Hollywood Holt rounds out the bill.

First Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut St., 8:30 p.m. Thursday, $12 advance, $14 day of show, all ages, 215-563-3980.

- James Johnson

ALTERNATIVE

Named after a porno film company, New York power-pop band Anabolics is led by guitarist/singer Anna Blumenthal and drummer Marcelo Romero, who once played in the Wishniaks with Trolleyvox's Andrew Chalfen. Anabolics, a trio, describes itself as the "bastard child of the Shangri Las and the Clash," but you will hear tons of stomping hooks and chiming harmonies from Cheap Trick. Locally they'd fit in nicely between Beretta 76 and Thee Minks. Tonight, they open for two generations of Philly garage titans: Mondo Topless and Dark Horse & the Carousels.

Tritone, 1508 South St., 9:30 tonight, $6, 215-545-0475, www.tritonebar.com.

- Sara Sherr

JAZZ

This show is poised at a crossroads of uncharted musical territory. German saxophonist Peter Brotzmann and New York-born drummer Nasheet Waits represent not only different generations, but different - albeit equally adventurous - improvisational approaches. Brotzmann, a veteran of the European improv scene, is savage and aggressive, where Waits, best known for his work with pianist Jason Moran, is reactive and eclectic. But both are supreme responders and can jostle each other into unexpected ideas.

Philadelphia Art Alliance, 251 S. 18th St., 8 p.m. Wednesday, $12, www.arsnovaworkshop.com.

- Shaun Brady

CLASSICAL

To celebrate cherished friends and his alma mater, Philadelphia Orchestra violinist Jason DePue is tackling one of the Everests of the repertory, the 24 Caprices by Nicolo Paganini. With fiendish trills, double-stops, octaves, slurs and chordal effects, it presses virtuosity to the outer limits. Italian violin virtuoso Paganini (1782-1840) was the first performing superstar, stunning audiences with dazzling technique and flamboyant showmanship. He didn't dispute the claim that he had consorted with the devil, especially when he performed sections of these 24 monstrously difficult Caprices for solo violin. The final 24th Caprice in A Minor became the basis of well-known variations by Rachmaninoff, Brahms, Lutoslawski and others. DePue is dedicating this concert to the Juilliard String Quartet, whose members are retiring after 45 years together. Good luck to DePue in this once-in-a-lifetime fiddle challenge, which benefits the Curtis Institute of Music.

St. Rita's, 1164 S. Broad St., 3 p.m. Sunday, $12, 267-977-7134.

- Tom Di Nardo