I play this song using barre chords and it just kills my left hand--right at the base of the thumb. About three and half minutes into the song (I like playing along to the Skull & Roses version), my hand feels like it's ready to fall off. Is this normal?
Ifin' I takes my acoustic camping I eventually get over the barre cord deal with my left hand after a couple of nights. I found that placing my left hand on my knee and applying pressure with my right elbow helps to loosen up this 'knot'. Hell I sometimes get 'em on my electric if I play for three or four hours. As far as I know after all this time that practice will strengthen it to the point that you can play shows (and make it through). Keep playin dead!
Definately use open chords and you could play a nice C chord bu using a small adjustment to you G chord by keeping you two G notes on the third fret of the 1 and 6 string and then adding your C on the 2 string and a E on your 4 string. It is a bit o' cheating but I like to use it because it keeps G as the roots of the chord....try it out and let me know what you think.
One way to beat the pain is to pick a song that has a lot of chord changes, and is in a major key with the chords being mostly major. PLay the song with you A barre chords. By the time you could play the whole song, barre chords will not hurt one bit. You muscles need to get used to these stangard postions. Espically plying dead tune, Booby uses a hybrid of barre chords for most songs....rarely would you see something open, and strait foward. He is usually addin a ninth seventh 13th...what have ya...just to make our playing more fun and always a learning process.
There is an art of switching between barre and open chords that I try to do while playing acoustic - much easier on the hands. Bertha is definitely a song where it's worth trying.
And of course, nobody is required to play all six strings in a barre (or five for the A form)....a "power chord" (just two notes, so not really a chord) or 3-note chord will often suffice. Although you wouldn't want to restrict yourself to them, unless maybe you were in a punk band.
all the obove recomendations would work just fine, but I suggest playing the full barres as you are. Deal with the pain and you'll get over it pretty quickly, I've been working on some very advanced changes and my fingers hurt all the time from stretching, but I can play regular barre chords on my acoustic all day long. pain is temporary, find pride in your changes