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Tuesday, February 06, 2007 | Gladiatunes. There’s only one route to travel if you’re looking to arrive at international superstardom. It can start anywhere, but it ends at feature film star — and Russell Crowe’s already there. So it seems a bit strange that the Oscar-winning actor is now busy at a gig that’s normally at the beginning of the fame-factory line: rock star. His newest band, Russell Crowe and the Ordinary Fear of God, arrives in San Diego later this week as part of its U.S. tour, after spending most of December at a weekly gig in Sydney, Australia playing in a 160-seat venue.

So how does Crowe measure up as a rock frontman? You could listen for yourself on iTunes, but save yourself the two minutes of lifetime. You’re not missing anything unless you get some strange joy out of comically melodramatic acoustic yearn-rock. “I’m so hard to handle/ My life’s a suitcase that’s never been closed,” Crowe mopes on the opening track to his latest album, “My Hand, My Heart,” perfectly exemplifying the irredeemable vacancy of his overproduced vanity poems. While the Gladiator’s earned a cush House of Blues hosting for his allegedly earnest musical enterprise (as a young New Zealander, he released a single under the Russ Le Roq moniker called “I Want To Be Like Marlon Brando”), it’s safe to say that his name’s draw at this point is still based on his acting skills, not his musical ones. Yet even if it doesn’t sound like he’ll be quitting his day job any time soon, Crowe deserves a few points for having the hubris to leave his safe, film-star coliseum for the sweaty uncertainty of the struggling rock singer.

Russell Crowe & The Ordinary Fear of God, 9:30 p.m., Wed. March 8 at House of Blues, 1055 Fifth Ave. downtown. $30. www.ticketmaster.com.

Music majors:

Experimental jazz is like spicy food. Even if you don’t like it all the time, it’s healthy to take a little bit in every once in a while to clean out your over-popped pipes, and momentarily reveal the forgotten rules that govern most of the music we usually hear. Get some musical refreshment from the Side A/B Ensemble, which stirs turntables, electronics and electric cello into an irreverent, exciting modern jazz mix. 8 p.m. Thurs. March 2 at Dizzy’s, 344 Seventh Ave. $10.

Styx haven’t sailed away just yet – judging by their ticket prices, they’ve got a strong incentive to stay on the road. What’s left of the stadium rock powerhouse will be rockin’ out Mr. Roboto-style 8 p.m. Thurs. March 2 at House Of Blues, 1055 Fifth Ave. downtown. $65-70.

Good indie hip-hop is generally infrequent in San Diego, which only makes the somewhat strange placement of socially conscious Oakland rap duo Zion I at the Casbah even more enticing. MC Zion busts world-wise rhymes over beatmaker Amp Live’s fresh ‘n’ booming bass tracks – producing pointed tunes that are more about completing a mission than making money. 8 p.m. Fri. March 3 at The Casbah, 2501 Kettner Blvd. $12.

—IAN PORT

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