From October 2011 to December 2012, I saw Bhi Bhiman six or seven times at various venues in Chicago. The stages have varied from the pretty large at Park West, where he opened for Martin Sexton, to the ultra small room at Uncommon Ground. It’s been about a year since the last time, but it was a wait well worth it. He came back to Chicago yesterday to open for Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, a beautiful hall usually reserved for Broadway shows.
In the two years since I first wrote about Bhi, his career has definitely had the biggest upswing of anyone I’ve covered. He was featured as best new artist in Paste Magazine, he toured Europe with Josh Ritter, and he played on Live! With Jools Holland a couple months ago. That’s where he met Chris Cornell, who was also on the show with Soundgarden. Not long after Bhi was asked to open for this solo tour Chris is doing. Just like that he’s playing for huge crowds every night and getting his music into the ears of a lot of people he may not have otherwise.
The crowd at Cadillac Palace was fairly receptive. There were some sound issues at first that made “Kimchee Line” come out a bit muddy, but it got better as the set went on. The audience would tune in and out depending on what Bhi was singing-there was a lot of talking behind me, but whenever he got to a line in a song that was funny, everyone would crack up (I guess some people can pay attention while talking during a show). We sat next to Bhi’s dad and behind his mom. Really sweet people, obviously very proud of their son. The song “It’s Cold Out Here” takes on a whole new level once you’ve met the woman he’s singing about.
The set was a good mix of stuff from his first two albums. “Kimchee Line” was the opener, as I mentioned, and he also played “Out In The Streets,” “It’s Cold Out Here,” “Equal In My Tea,” “Crime Of Passion” which is my favorite, “Guttersnipe,” and he ended with a cover of the Dire Straits classic “Walk Of Life,” which can be found on his EP Substitute Preacher. The last song required some audience participation in the form of whistling the sports organ part (lots of good whistlers in Chicago!).
My favorite part of seeing Bhi play always comes after his set when we get to say hi for a couple minutes. He’s such a nice guy, and he seems to be rolling with all these little leaps forward without letting it go to his head at all. It was fun to hear his dad talk about how much Bhi liked Soundgarden when he was younger, comparing it to meeting Brando. He also said Bhi liked AC/DC a ton, so I’m waiting for the next Bhiman album that sheds the acoustic for a shredding ax.
If you haven’t checked out Bhiman’s music yet, you definitely need to. He’s a great singer and an amazing songwriter His self-titled album was produced by Sam Kassirer, who has also produced Kingsley Flood, The David Wax Museum, and of course produces and plays keys for Josh Ritter. Both Bhiman and The Cookbook are available to hear on Spotify, but I would encourage you to just buy them anyway. You can check out his upcoming tour dates with Cornell here. If you have the night he’s playing in your town open, treat yourself with some brilliant music.