For Pearl Jam fan Roland Mandel, who had received a terminal diagnosis with ALS, seeing the band at their Berlin performances was one of his final wishes, but it almost didn’t happen. The fact that it did and how the band responded to Roland’s presence made the moment all that much sweeter.
Mandel had initially purchased tickets to see Pearl Jam in 2019, prior to the pandemic and at a time when he was still healthy. But a year ago, the teacher from Lüneburg was diagnosed with ALS, and is currently in a wheelchair. With only a few months to live, Mandel had stated that seeing Pearl Jam’s concert was one of his final wishes, but due to regulations at the Berlin Waldbühne, his ability to see the band play was put in jeopardy.
According to German outlet Taz (as translated to English by Loudwire), Mandel was set to be denied as all of the wheelchair seating, 12 seats in the entire 22,000 seat venue, had already been taken.
“We never would have thought of the idea in the first place,” said Mandel’s wife, Sandra Dragendorf, before adding, “Roland doesn’t have much left, just summer. No matter how bad he is, he said we’re going.”
After learning of Roland’s plight, a campaign was started on social media using the #RVMforRoland hashtag. Designed to bring attention to Mandel’s situation, the hashtag was also a callout for the band to play one of Roland’s favorite songs, “Rearviewmirror.”
Mandel’s friends also got involved, writing to the concert organizer, the lessee of the venue and the Berlin Commissioner for the Disabled as well as the city’s cultural administration, trying to find a way to grant the teacher’s wish to see the band. And after some negotiations, the situation was resolved with Mandel being able to watch from an area next to the stage.
Even then, Taz reports that the journey was not an easy one. Mandel and his family traveled by train and then needed to find accommodations with a wheelchair-accessible room with a care bed.
As it turns out, Roland’s quest to see the show helped out another fan as well. Not only did Roland get to attend the show, but another wheelchair-bound fan was also granted access to the show after the public outcry over the wheelchair seating situation.
Toward the end of the body of the band’s show, the group performed their cover of the Ramones’ “I Believe in Miracles” before Mandel was wheeled out onto the stage. “He should also experience this special sight,” Eddie Vedder stated as Mandel faced the thousands of cheering fans at the venue. “He worked his ass off to be here tonight,” stated the singer, with fans starting an audible chant of “Roland, Roland” in response with his story have resonated with audience members. After some photos with Roland, the band ended the first part of their performance that night with “Porch” before taking their encore break.
“It was so unbelievable,” Mandel’s wife said the day after, reflecting on all the support they had received in trying to make this wish come true. As for Mandel, she stated, “He was so excited, so positive, so full of adrenaline. This stays for eternity.”
See footage of this special moment taking place shared by the Live on 4 Legs Podcast below.