Las Vegas Sun

June 16, 2019

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More than dance: Derek Hough brings a big, loud show to Las Vegas

Derek Hough

Brian Bowen Smith

Derek Hough performs at the Smith Center on May 31.

His fans know him best as a repeat champion on “Dancing With the Stars” and more recently as a judge on Jennifer Lopez’s NBC series “World of Dance,” but 34-year-old, Salt Lake City-born Derek Hough is the consummate entertainer. He’s proving it these days during his first solo tour, a whirlwind production of live music, singing and dancing. Hough stops at the Smith Center for one night this week. I caught up with the performer to get the details.

How’s the tour going so far?

The response has been just overwhelming. I’ve done many tours and the feeling and reaction and energy of this audience just feels different. It’s really amazing. I’m using a live band for the first time and the set list I’ve put together covers everything from Motown to hip-hop to Latin to ballroom to tap and contemporary. And it’s great because the audience is so eclectic, too, 7-year-olds to 90-year-olds. It’s been great to see those smiles and see everyone standing up and dancing.

It must have been a tremendous challenge to put this show together.

For me, it took longer than anything else because it was getting the band to also record of the music I wanted, so we would be able to play some tracks along with the live band to beef it up and make it sound big. We were in the studio for four months working on the music and this mash-up medley. And I’m singing a lot more, everything from big band to rock and roll, and it’s a good time. It really is a dream. When you that live percussion onstage, it’s a whole different feeling altogether.

But you’ve done a considerable amount of singing before this tour, right?

I did musical theater a lot when I was living in London, eight shows a week, so I’m used to it. But for more of a dancing show, I’m really singing a lot more, but I love it so much. It was interesting to kind of strategize and figure out how to stay onstage for an hour and a half and not die from exhaustion, you know, maybe I’ll sing here while everybody else is dancing, or maybe I’ll put down the guitar here then I’ll dance. There were a lot of creative ideas.

Your show is so balanced that it seems like Las Vegas is a comfortable fit. Could you see yourself having some sort of ongoing Vegas gig at some point?

There have been talks about the possibility of that. Vegas has been so incredible and I’ve been able to see the extraordinary growth of Vegas first-hand. My mom lived there for 20 years and I’ve visited often, and there’s always something new and exciting every time I come back. For me, it’s never say never. It is funny that a lot of people have mentioned it to me after this show, that I should do a show in Vegas, so who knows?

You had to balance the time required for this tour with many other TV and stage and musical projects. Do you specifically focus on one kind of work, put dance aside to focus on music, for example, in order to get everything done?

As long as I’m creating, whether it’s music or dancing or content that goes online or TV shows, as long as I’m active and creating, it’s good. I’ve been really fortunate to have a lot of opportunities come up and to also be able to create my own opportunities. I remember the first tour, when I said, ‘Let’s do this dance show and take it on the road,’ I had to sort of convince the producers it would work because they didn’t really know what it would be. And here I am four tours later. It’s been amazing. As long as I’m being active and growing and progressing, the ideas and opportunities continue to rise.

If you’re singing a lot in this show and you’ve recorded a lot of music lately, are we going to see an album or some kind of musical output soon?

I’m sort of deciding right now between two good choices which will be my next project, and that’s a good problem to have. But I’ve also been working on a lot of music over the past five years and there’s a lot of stuff that’s been recorded that I’ve been sitting on, so I think I will start putting stuff out and have some fun.

“Derek Hough Live!” is set for 7:30 p.m. May 31 at Reynolds Hall at the Smith Center (361 Symphony Park Ave., 702-749-2000) and more information can be found at thesmithcenter.com.