It’s not easy to stand out in a city like London. It draws people from all over the world, looking for that lucky break in acting, dance, music, writing-you name it. So if you’ve walked down along a place like Covent Garden often enough and stopped wondering how the levitating statue-man levitates, then you’re at that stage where the buffet of talent has allowed you to develop an appetite for only the most sterling performances. Which means, you would only stop in your tracks when someone like Simeon Baker performs.
When a street performer takes the stage, he or she often takes some time to warm up the audience and tease them with little jokes or little kids, anything that will make the audience like them. Once the crowd is big enough and the energy is buzzing, they build up to a climax and they reach that moment that makes the jaw drop appreciatively-the bicycle is balanced perfectly on the nose for five full seconds, the chained man emerges free after a ten-second countdown, the stuntman spins on the crown of his head for a breathless amount of time.
Of course, it is different with music, where you simply get lost in a song and the artiste does not need to whet your appetite, because his soul is already exposed from the start of the song to the end of it. But imagine an artiste who wears his heart on his sleeve, or in this case, his guitar, and who combines it with the perfect climactic moment that all street performers build up to and can only last for seconds with, stretching it out for an eternity.
When you have achieved that incredible combination-a star is born. Nineteen-year-old Simeon Baker moved to London from Adelaide in March this year and like any street performer, trudges around with a great big load on the tube everyday (no easy feat-some people barely miss the closing doors by the skin of their teeth, often leaving behind half a family on the platform, baby in one arm, pram just having missed getting squashed). Simeon’s load consists of his guitar, his sound system-loud enough to drown out other performers if the competition gets fierce, but with his placid and unassuming nature, fills the streets with his talent, not his ego.
And the reason why he stopped me in my tracks? He plays the guitar on his lap. Yes, flat on his lap.
Inspired by the likes of Tommy Emmanuel and Joe Robinson, who won Australia’s Got Talent in 2008, Simeon plays in the percussive lap style. You watch and wonder: is that even possible? He plucks and slaps the guitar to the tune of Human Nature, as effortlessly as if he were spreading peanut butter on a piece of hot toast delicately balanced on the tips of his fingers without getting burnt. Now, that takes talent.
For more information and links to his performances: