SXSW Live Shot: Haden Triplets

Gorgeous, polished harmonies, but the live show needs work

SXSW Live Shot: Haden Triplets
photo by Sandy Carson

Springing from a show-business legacy – their father is jazz bassist Charlie Haden – the Haden Triplets arrive mostly ready for prime time. And yet, perhaps because this was their third performance of the day and they were justifiably beat, Rachel, Tanya, and Petra Haden could’ve used a bit of a spit-and-shine. Or maybe they’re still a little green.

That said, the sisters shone where it counted. Whether portraying the multiplicity of women’s lived experiences through a cover of the Carter Family’s “Single Girl, Married Girl” or the Everly Brothers’ mournful “So Sad,” the sibling harmonies, perfect for the Americana canon from which they draw deeply, lace together like an expertly pieced bit of vintage needlework.

Their backing band, consisting of two guitarists – including Nickel Creek’s Sean Watkins – plus upright bass and drums, meshes tight and professional, which made the sisters’ stage presence that much more bothersome. The awkward lulls between songs while Rachel tuned her violin were bad enough, with Tanya and Petra waiting silently before one of them stiffly announced the next song.

On top of that, their overall demeanor, from sighing heavily between songs to uncomfortable body language, was distracting. A heavy reliance on lyric sheets and resultant lack of eye contact with the audience was just plain amateurish. It’s difficult to reconcile the Haden Triplets’ simply gorgeous performance with the lack of polish in their stage presence.

Given other accounts of their earlier performances on Wednesday, perhaps they had just run out of steam.

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