On Tuesday, Pearl Jam performed again as a tradition in the best summer weather in the Berlin Waldbühne. The concert as part of their GIGATON world tour was supposed to take place in 2020, but was postponed due to the corona pandemic. They played for two hours, 22,000 fans watched, here is our follow-up report as well as photos and videos. One fan almost didn’t make it to the concert: Roland Mandel.

    As the “taz” reports, Mandel, a teacher from Lüneburg, had bought his ticket like most of the other spectators at the original start of advance sales at the end of 2019. At that time he was still healthy. Today, two and a half years later, he is dependent on a wheelchair. It is said that he has very terminal ALS and has only a few months to live. In order to experience the concert anyway, he needed a wheelchair ticket. However, he was not allowed to paraphrase it in advance – the contingent of wheelchair tickets intended for the Waldbühne had already been exhausted. According to the organizer, only twelve seats were provided for this, which seems very small compared to the capacity of the forest stage. Especially since venues in Berlin probably have to reserve at least one percent of their capacity for wheelchair users, which would be 220 in this specific case. It is said that due to monument protection, the Waldbühne cannot be converted to be as barrier-free as is actually necessary.

    Mandel’s family didn’t give up, after all, this visit to the concert was a kind of last wish from Mandel. After many negotiations, according to the taz, which publicly supported Mandel on behalf of all other wheelchair users, it obviously worked out after all: Roland Mandel got a wheelchair ticket – and a double place of honor: he and his family were able to experience the Pearl Jam concert from the edge of the stage. At the end of the regular set, before Pearl Jam played “Porch” from their debut TEN, singer Eddie Vedder made a lengthy announcement: Back then, at the beginning of the pandemic, he and his band would have thought the shows would only be a few weeks longer or months can be postponed. It has now been two years and there have been quite a few people who have fought very hard to be able to continue attending this concert. One of them is Roland. He was then pushed onto the stage to thunderous applause and was allowed to enjoy the same view of the Waldbühne and the audience for a few minutes as the rock stars did next to him. 22,000 fans witnessed how touched Mandel was by the live transmission of this scene on the two video screens on the left and right of the stage. He smiled, apparently could hardly believe his luck, was greeted by Vedder, introduced, hugged, said goodbye with the sentence “We love you, Roland!” – and after the first bars of “Porch” was pushed back to his place at the edge of the stage.

    The “taz” quoted Mandel’s wife Sandra Dragendorf the day after: “It was so unbelievable,” she said. So many people would have helped to make the concert evening something very special. Roland Mandel himself, she said, was “so excited, so positive, so full of adrenaline. That stays for eternity.”

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