To Pearl Jam fan Roland Mandel, who had been given a terminal diagnosis with ALS, was one of his last wishes to see the band for their Berlin performances, but it hardly happened. The fact that it did, and how the band reacted to Roland’s presence, made the moment so much sweeter.
Mandel had originally bought tickets to Pearl Jam in 2019, ahead of 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 left, Mandel had stated that watching Pearl Jam’s concert was one of his last wishes, but due to the rules of the Berlin Waldbühne, his ability to watch the band play was put in jeopardy.
According to German outlet Taz (as translated into English by Loudwire), Mandel was set to be denied, as all wheelchair seats, 12 seats in all 22,000 seats, had already been taken.
“We would never have thought of the idea in the first place,” said Mandel’s wife, Sandra Dragendorf, before adding: “Roland has not much left, only summer. No matter how bad he is, he said we’re leaving.”
After hearing about Roland’s situation, a campaign was launched on social media using the #RVMforRoland hashtag. Designed to draw attention to Mandel’s situation, the hashtag was also an invitation to the band to play one of Roland’s favorite songs, “Rearviewmirror”.
Mandel’s friends also became involved, writing to the concert organizer, the tenant of the venue and the Berlin Commissioner for the Disabled, as well as the city’s cultural administration, trying to find a way to accommodate the teacher’s desire to see the band. And after some negotiation, the situation was resolved with Mandel being able to watch from an area next to the stage.
Even then, Taz tells that the journey was not easy. Mandel and his family traveled by train and then had to find accommodations with a wheelchair-friendly room with a nursing bed.
As it turns out, Roland’s quest to see the show also helped another fan. Not only did Roland get to attend the show, but another wheelchair-bound fan also gained access to the show after the public outcry over the situation with wheelchair seats.
Towards the end of the body of the band’s show, the group performed their cover of Ramones’ “I Believe in Miracles” before Mandel was driven out on stage. “He should also experience this special sight,” Eddie Vedder pronounced as Mandel faced the thousands of cheering fans at the venue. “He worked his way up to be here tonight,” the singer said, and fans who started an audible song of “Roland, Roland,” in response to his story, have resonated with audiences. After some pictures with Roland, the band ended the first part of their performance that night with “Porch”, before taking their extra number.
“It was so incredible,” Mandel’s wife said the next day, 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 will last forever.”
Watch footage of this special moment taking place, shared by the Live on 4 Legs podcast below.